Lisa Rein Journalist covering federal agencies and government management in the Trump administration On November 9 at 1:30 pm, White House officials appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as the most senior cabinet member Vulnerable to a congressional inquiry under a Democratic majority in January, placing the colorful secretary is getting closer to the president's line of sight, according to two senior administration officials informed of the issue. The new assessment comes as President Trump questions about the opportunity to dismiss Zinke, according to officials, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel issues. Trump has announced to his staff that he will make a decision next week after his return from Paris, they announced. At the White House on Friday, he gave Zinke a vote of lukewarm confidence. When asked if he wanted to dismiss Zinke, the president replied "No," but quickly added, "I will review any complaints." Zinke's conduct and management decisions triggered at least 15 investigations. , nine of which have been closed. . The most serious, which the Acting Inspector General of the Ministry of Justice appointed last month in the office of justice, was to determine whether the secretary had used his office for personal purposes in the context of a land transaction that he had concluded at Whitefish, on Mount David, with David Lesar, president of Halliburton. investors. Recently released public documents show that Zinke has sometimes taken an unconventional approach, including holding meetings with several billionaires and taking 66 days of personal leave during his first year and a half of work. [Newly released emails suggest Zinke contradicted ethics pledge]
Zinke's Interior Department withdrew the protections afforded to 10 million acres of federal land used by the threatened hazel grouse, which angered environmentalists. (David Zalubowski / AP) Zinke sought to keep his position, informing White House officials that he had done nothing wrong and urging them to postpone any decision until later. The president is focusing mainly on the federal investigation into Zinke's role in the real estate deal in Montana, officials said, although White House assistants are assessing several aspects of his performance. Officials have begun to study which cabinet members are most likely to be the subject of serious investigations on Capitol Hill, and the former Navy SEAL and congressmen topped the list. Trump also expressed his concern about Zinke's conduct and regretted that this could become a problem for the president. Unlike the former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who remained in office several months after allegations about his expenses and his management decisions were revealed Zinke is not the same kind of close relationship as Pruitt and Trump. Chamber Democrats such as Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (Arizona), who is to take over the House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee next year, are already preparing to convince Zinke of his personal conduct and its management decisions. Grijalva said on Wednesday that he and his colleagues wanted the Home Secretary to provide answers on several fronts. Last month, Mary Kendall, Acting Home Inspector General, referred the investigation to the Department of Justice to determine whether Zinke had used his office for personal gain. "It's our balance, our constitutional obligation and our jurisdiction," said Grijalva. "To carry out our responsibilities in terms of surveillance and accountability is not to claim a war with the administration." New emails sent this week to the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act show The Secretary Met a Rich Sacramento Developer About Wildlife Issues After College A friend and political supporter described Angelo Tsakopoulos as "a very powerful billionaire Liberal Democratic California". Ed Hagerty – who played football at the university with Zinke at the University of Oregon and worked in energy investing – donated $ 10,000 in 2012 to a super PAC created by Zinke, according to the Federal Archives. "I know he's also feeling powerful feelings about the Army Corps of Engineers and their work within the state of California," Hagerty wrote in a statement. June 23, 2017, email. Hagerty asked Zinke, whom he described as "Z-Man," "Would it be possible to arrange a meeting for Angelo with someone high up in your staff?" Zinke just knew the nobody. "Ed, I'd be happy to take the meeting personally," he replied an hour and a half later. Tsakopoulos is an influential real estate developer who has unsuccessfully challenged federal restrictions on wetland clearing under the Clean Water Act. In 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the US Court of Appeals of the 9th Circuit that Tsakopoulos violated the law by using a bulldozer with a deep plow to destroy the wetlands he owned for the purpose. to convert them to farmland. Three months later, the three men gathered in the secretary's conference room with some of Zinke's best collaborators, to discuss how farmers, developers, businesses and businesses. [sic] working with federal agencies to conserve wildlife more effectively ", according to Zinke's official calendar. [White House concerned Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated federal rules] Asked about the meeting, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said, "Working with the private sector to preserve wildlife and its habitat is a recurring theme in the secretary's mandate. So it's not surprising that he had a meeting on this issue in 2017. "But Michael Brune, executive director of the rights group, Sierra Club, said that the exchange had shown how personal connections are the basis of decisions taken within. Earlier this year, Interior proposed to amend the regulation under the Endangered Species Act to make it more difficult to report protected habitat. "Ryan Zinke has proven time and time again that he was unable to understand that he was working for the people, and not for his football friends and their billionaire contacts," Brune said in an e-mail. "Donald Trump should send Zinke back rather than letting him abuse his power to enrich one more day, as well as his friends." The June 2017 e-mail exchange is not the only one when Zinke and his associates sent an email asking them to meet billionaires. In April 2017, the secretary agreed to meet with entrepreneur Palmer Lucky, whom conservative activist Charles Johnson described as "someone who sold his business to Oculus Rift for $ 2.5 billion." dollars. " Scott, who forwarded the application, co-wrote Zinke's memoir, "American Commandant," wrote, "Another billionaire wants a meeting – it's up to you. I do not know this guy, I can not confirm the alleged meeting with the president, but I confirmed that he had earned a lot of money recently. The public records also show that Zinke took 66 "personal days" between March 2017 and August 2018, excluding weekends and federal holidays. This total exceeds the 39 annual vacation days of senior federal officials over the same period. Swift, who notes that Cabinet members are excluded from the federal leave system because they often work outside of normal working hours and when they travel, said Zinke "generally chooses to work all weekend, then dedicates his personal time spent with his wife and children. who do not live in Washington DC "" During these days outside the office, the secretary continues to work on departmental affairs, "she said, pointing out that he had been working" at least 35 weekends "outside Washington and some days marked" staff on his schedule. Zinke's schedule shows that he worked nine weekends, most at the beginning of his tenure, while visiting national monuments. On the 18-day weekend, her schedule included flights as part of her official duties. All of these trips were round-trip flights to DC from home in California and Montana or from national monuments. Center for Western Priorities spokesman Aaron Weiss, whose group is a sharp critic of Zinke, asked why the secretary would take so much time while cabinet members usually sit for only a few years. "You do not have a lot of time to do anything," Weiss said. "What kind of message does this send if you are not even at the office about a week out of four?" Zinke's assistants rejected the idea that he was resigned to leaving the administration. After Politico announced Thursday night that Zinke had begun discussing the possibility of taking a job with Fox News executives and had told his associates that he would resign right here by the end of the year. year, the network and Swift rejected the claims. "Belongs to the onion. Strangely false, "said Swift in an email, referring to Fox's complaint. She rejected the idea that Zinke would leave by the end of the year. "No one at FOX News has talked to Zinke about a contributor role," said a spokesman for the network in a statement. Zinke did not talk about the inquiries he faces this week, although he tweeted Wednesday, "Congratulations to all new members of the House and Senate. I look forward to working with you all to advance important priorities @Interior, such as the rebuilding of @NatlParkService infrastructure, the end of #OpioidCrisis in the Indian country and the achievement of #EnergyDominance. "Little chance of getting a break when it comes to controlling his term." Alice Crites, Sarah Ellison and Darryl Fears contributed to this report. .