Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke Under Investigation for Trumpcare Threat

As the future dims for Trumpcare, one administration official has apparently taken it upon himself to threaten lawmakers. Ryan Zinke, secretary of the Interior, allegedly contacted Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan about Senator Murkowski’s “no” vote on the latest version of Republican health care reform. Zinke suggested that the state might come to regret the decision, in a veiled threat.

The Department of the Interior is heavily involved in the decision-making process for activities like granting oil and gas permits, reviewing mineral rights and using other natural resources on both federal and tribal lands. In Alaska, a state that relies heavily on resource extraction, a good relationship with the department is critical — failure to gain approval from Interior could snarl major projects, including those bringing key jobs and other economic growth to remote communities.

President Donald Trump had already lashed out at Murkowski for her vote, which proved to be a critical deciding point in the failure of the bill. And this isn’t the first time the president has used Twitter to make critical statements about lawmakers and government agencies.

Sullivan and Murkowski both evidently received calls from Zinke with warnings about the state’s energy future, though they didn’t go into lengthy detail.

In addition to concerns about pending and future projects, the state is also worried about potential Interior Department appointments for people from Alaska. The positions can represent important jobs, as well as opportunities to help shape federal land use policy. And being shut out of these opportunities would leave the state at a disadvantage.

The Department of the Interior’s Inspector General’s Office just announced that it will be looking into reports of the threat. Internal investigations of this nature are important for the integrity of federal agencies.

If their investigation turns up evidence to support the concerns raised by people on both sides of the aisle, it would certainly cast a negative light on the Department of the Interior’s ethics. Many federal agencies are in a position to have tremendous influence over the social and economic well-being of individual states, and evidence of threats to states over individual votes is very troubling.

It could also raise some questions about whether ethically questionable activities could govern which projects are and aren’t approved at the agency.

While the Department of the Interior hasn’t responded to questions for comment, Zinke seems eager to smooth over rumor. He even posted a photograph of himself drinking beer with Senator Murkowski, calling them “friends,” as the news about the threats broke.

Murkowski’s office has also remained fairly tight-lipped about what happened during the call, playing down some of the allegations surrounding what Zinke said and how seriously she and her fellow senator took it.

Murkowski, notably, is quite popular in Alaska, and the concern driving her vote was with the speed of the legislation, not necessarily the content. The senator said she wasn’t pleased at how quickly it was moving, as the high speed left little time for thoughtfully considered hearings and opportunities to discuss the full ramifications of the legislation. Murkowski was also concerned by reports from her constituents, who worried that the Republican bill as presented might make it difficult to afford health care.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

38 comments

Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE28 days ago

Thank you

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Jillian H
Jillian H.about a month ago

Lock him up!

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Mark Donner
Mark Donnerabout a month ago

Zinke and Pruitt are worse than terrorists. They are not only attempting genocide, they are conspiring to destroy the future of life on Earth. Don't just impeach Zinke, slam him into a maximum security cell for life.

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Joan E
Joan Eabout a month ago

Time to vote out all the thugs.

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jan b
jan babout a month ago

All this time WASTED . just because the R's want more tax breaks for the wealthy via cutting heathcare benefits we already have....
...the ACA could have had some fixes and been passed by congress already. It's not only TIME but MONEY it costs us taxpayers to have republicans in congress wasting so much of their time they could be passing legislation. Their low approval rating doesn't bother them......they'll have enough votes anyway from the die-hards.

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Beth M
Beth Mabout a month ago

He believes that he is a dictator like Putin. There will be no America left when he is through.

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chris B
chris Babout a month ago

Stop this fuel before he tears our beautiful lands to shreds w/chemicals, oil, gas and destroys our water and air and Historical Monuments. This entire administration is destroying our entire country. From top to bottom, left and right, and right down the middle. They are all thieves and crooks. so there

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Wesley Struebing
Wesley Struebingabout a month ago

He dam,n well should be impeached - and removed from office. His threats were worrisome in the extreme.

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Julie D
Julie Dabout a month ago

Intimidation and threats to coerce representatives who are actually looking out for the best interests of their constituents to instead vote against them in order to please a tyrant is NOT the way our government is supposed to work. Trump is not a dictator, no matter how much he wants to be, he is a Public Servant, supposedly in office to serve the best interests of the people of this country. If they presented a decent healthcare bill which is what Trump promised, less expensive, more comprehensive, covering all people, far superior to the ACA then they would have no trouble getting it approved by both sides of the isle. To present an abomination of a bill that would be the opposite of that and expect to force it to be passed by using bully tactics is ridiculous, outrageous and unacceptable. I'm so glad these brave people stood up and did the right thing by voting no to that. Are there no laws that protect these representatives who are just trying to do their jobs by representing their people? If not maybe we need to create some.

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Lenore K
Lenore Kabout a month ago

ok

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