Senators' silence kills probe into Zinke's alleged Alaska threats

Senators' silence kills probe into Zinke's alleged Alaska threats
© Greg Nash

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is closing its investigation into Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeZinke under federal investigation for speech to NHL team: report Overnight Regulation: Senate panel approves driverless car bill | House bill to change joint-employer rule advances | Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rule | Feds delaying Obama methane leak rule Overnight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick MORE’s alleged threats against an Alaska senator during an ObamaCare fight last month after the lawmaker and her in-state colleague refused to participate in the probe.

In a letter to a pair of House Democrats who requested the investigation, Interior’s Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said her office “does not believe it could meaningfully investigate the matter further” because Alaska Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRepublicans jockey for position on immigration GOP senator knocks Trump: 'Not a fan of governing by tweet' How the effort to replace ObamaCare failed MORE and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, declined to be interviewed as part of the inquiry.

“The OIG has conducted a preliminary review of this matter, including investigative and jurisdictional considerations, and concludes that further investigation would prove unproductive,” Kendall wrote to Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

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Sullivan told The Alaska Dispatch News last month that Zinke threatened to withhold Interior support for Alaska if Murkowski did not support an ObamaCare repeal bill favored by President Trump. At the time, Sullivan called the threat "troubling."

Murkowski was one of three Republicans to vote against the legislation, sinking the effort.

Trump singled out Murkowski after the vote.

"Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday," the president tweeted. "Too bad!"

Democrats and good-government watchdogs urged an investigation into Zinke's conduct, saying it showed an inappropriate heavy-handedness from the Trump administration.

Murkowski downplayed the incident, and Zinke said it was “laughable” that he would threaten Alaska over the healthcare vote.

Earlier this month, Zinke tweeted a picture of himself and Murkowski sharing beers, calling the senator a “friend.”