McConnell asked Trump team not to appoint Zinke to head Interior: report

McConnell asked Trump team not to appoint Zinke to head Interior: report

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Progressive veterans group launches campaign labeling Trump as a 'national security threat' GOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week MORE (R-Ky.) tried to stop President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE from appointing Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) to a Cabinet position because he wanted Zinke to run for Senate, the New York Times report Friday.

McConnell, upon hearing that Trump was mulling Zinke as the Secretary of the Interior, reportedly contacted Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceGiuliani associate says he sought to pressure Ukraine to investigate Bidens Key impeachment witnesses to know as public hearings begin Overnight Defense: Pentagon says Syrian oil revenue going to Kurdish forces | GOP chair accuses Dems of using Space Force as leverage in wall fight | Dems drop plans to seek Bolton testimony MORE and soon-to-be White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus earlier this week to ask them to change course.

But McConnell’s efforts ultimately failed, as Trump announced the appointment of Zinke on Thursday.

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McConnell, seeking to increase the GOP's Senate majority, had been working to convince Zinke to challenge Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Top diplomat changes testimony to indicate quid pro quo | Dem offers measure on Turkish human rights abuses in Syria | Warren offers plan to address veteran suicide rates Manchin says he wouldn't back Sanders against Trump in presidential race Bennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists MORE (D-Mont.) in 2018.

Donald Trump Jr. influenced Trump’s ultimate choice of Zinke, the report said.

Trump Jr., an avid hunter, is a part of a group called Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which opposed Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersShimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering Bipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill DC's liaison to rock 'n' roll MORE (R-Wa.) for Interior secretary over her support for selling public land.

McMorris Rodgers was reportedly the other name on Trump's shortlist for Interior.

The president of the sportsmen group that Trump Jr. belongs to is also a backer of Tester, according to the report.

The GOP's 52-seat majority in the Senate could grow in 2018, when Democrats will have to defend seats in a variety of states that are either heavily red states — such as Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — or swing states where Trump won, such as Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The Hill last month rated Tester's seat as one of the ten that could flip in 2018, but noted at the time that Zinke was the best-positioned Montana Republican to challenge him.