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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to stop President-elect Donald Trump 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 Pence 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.

{mosads}McConnell, seeking to increase the GOP’s Senate majority, had been working to convince Zinke to challenge Sen. Jon Tester (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 Rodgers (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.

Tags Cabinet Cathy McMorris Rodgers Donald Trump Jon Tester Mike Pence Mitch McConnell secretary of the interior
See all Hill.TV See all Video