The Top 25,467 Open Investigations Into Ryan Zinke, Can't Imagine Why He Just Up And Quit
Ryan Zinke suddenly resigned as secretary of the Interior on Saturday, citing the many "vicious and politically motivated attacks" launched against him by people who just hate America. (Like his own department's inspector general, and the Republicans who until January will rule Congress. OK, sure, and the incoming Democrats, who have this silly idea that endless travel scandals and hinky-looking land deals are worth investigating.) The Associated Press got its ink-stained hands on a copy of Zinke's resignation letter, which certainly offered a few surprises. For one thing, while he's been accused of iffy land deals to open a brewpub, this letter shows he's also adept at running a whinery. (GET IT? #DADJOKES?) At least now maybe he'll finally learn how to fly fish right.
In that resignation letter, Zinke said those "attacks" against him had "created an unfortunate distraction" from Interior's mission. In the Before Times, that would have been the responsible stewardship of public lands, but under Zinke, it's been more a matter of responsible stewardship of extractive industries -- primarily oil and gas, but let's not forget logging, uranium and coal mining, and ranching, too. But now, sadly, the enemies of the wonderful job he's been doing for industry have brought him down with "meritless and false claims," because "to some, truth no longer matters." Yep. Some people really have no regard for reality, that's for sure.
In a tweet Saturday, Zinke continued the whinging, as a rugged outdoorsy manly-man would:
Mind you, it's not just America-hating environmentalists and good-government types who want more rigorous investigations of Zinke and Interior. Trump was apparently not really in love with him all that much either, and according to the Washington Post, had let Zinke know he'd need to resign by the end of the year or be fired.
For Zinke, the key moment in his loss of support at the White House came in October, when Interior's inspector general referred one of its inquiries to the Justice Department, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.
That probe, which continues, is examining whether a land deal Zinke struck with the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., constituted a conflict of interest [...]
Administration officials concluded weeks ago that Zinke was the Cabinet member most vulnerable to congressional investigations once Democrats took control of the House in January. But multiple crises, including wildfires out West and uncertainty over whether John F. Kelly would stay on as White House chief of staff, had afforded Zinke a temporary reprieve.
Ah, yes, the winter holidays, when things slow down a bit and you finally get a chance to fire the people whose scandals have been a lesser pain in the ass than natural disasters and a consigliere you've just grown tired of.
Let's briefly review some of the grifty Zinkiness that could have distracted from the greater good of drilling and strip-mining all the American parts of the earth!
For starters, there's that land deal with David Lesar, head of Halliburton, the oil well and oil well accessories company, in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana. While the deal doesn't directly involve Halliburton or Interior, it stinks to high heaven: Lesar heads a group that wants to develop a hotel/high-end retail complex on land adjacent to a "park" site owned by a foundation Zinke ran until recently. The foundation would cede a parking lot for the joint use of the "veterans park" (mostly a muddy former industrial site now) and the development. Oh, and the complex would include that brewpub Zinke's always dreamed of owning, as well as increase the likely value of commercial property the Zinkes own nearby. But there's nothing at all odd about any of that! All perfectly legal, because, um, Zinke resigned from the foundation when he took office, and now it's run by his wife, Lola, who we'll assume has a nondisclosure agreement with herself about stuff she and Ryan might profit from.
Then there's all that travel! Turns out Interior's inspector general found the Secretary had brought Lola Zinke along on a lot of little trips that spouses weren't supposed to go on, at taxpayers' expense, but that's fine because later, Zinke changed the rules to allow it. Not really a problem at all, since despite the IG report, an Interior spokesperson made it all disappear by insisting the report had actually exonerated Zinke, which may not technically be "true" but was close enough for this administration.
That doesn't even include Zinke's fun private helicopter tours in 2017, which diverted funds from wildfire preparedness to show Zinke some areas in Nevada that were not on fire, but hey, money could be moved around, shhhhh, and besides, once troublemakers started nosing around, that expenditure could be paid for from "a more appropriate account," so not to worry, the ethics are good. Then there were the trips to Alaska to, um, inspect a steak house, and to the US Virgin Islands to go snorkeling, probably to see if there were any good coral reefs to drill for oil under. Besides, Obama's people spent more on charters overall, so shut up.
Democrats also have expressed interest in figuring out just how the hell a tiny company from Zinke's hometown happened to be on the must-call list for Puerto Rico's electric utility and got a no-bid contact to rebuild the island's grid following Hurricane Maria. Probably just one weird coincidence!
Oh, yeah, and the $139,000 doors for Zinke's office? We suppose someone wanted to look at those. In any case, even if Zinke moves on to private industry, the incoming head of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep Raul Grijalva, promises, "It's safe to say that Citizen Zinke may be leaving, but real oversight of former Secretary Zinke has not even started," according to Grijalva spokesperson Adam Sarvana.
And even without Zinke at the helm, Democrats want to at least get on record the interests who public lands are being sold to, so that means more investigations of the Trump-era Interior Department's policies that keep Western polluters, miners, loggers, ranchers, and various ne'er-do-wells (unless they're for oil) happy. All those industry-friendly policies are likely to be continued or expanded under acting secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas industry lobbyist. It'll probably be even greater than that when whomever Trump appoints to take the post permanently gets into the job. For the record, that could be Bernhardt, although the AP reports that retiring Idaho congressman Raul Labrador, who sucks profoundly, is asking for the job, too.
Whatever happens, just remember that even when God closes a Zinke door, He will surely open up some kind of really fucked up window that will probably choke everybody to death, in Jesus's name, MAGA and AMEN.
UPDATE: On his way out, Zinke just had to get in one last grift (h/t to editor emeritus Ken Layne):
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