GAO to investigate Zinke’s alleged Alaskan threat: report

GAO to investigate Zinke’s alleged Alaskan threat: report

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) will launch an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Future of controversial international hunting council up in the air Overnight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis MORE's alleged threat against Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes Senate fails to override Trump veto over emergency declaration MORE (R-Ak.) to withhold Interior support for Alaska if the she did not support the GOP ObamaCare repeal and replace bill. 

Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Raul Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) had requested the top government watchdog look into the matter. Ethics experts say it's highly inappropriate for a Cabinet-level government agency to threaten to withhold economic development based on votes from a given state's lawmakers.

Murkowski ultimately voted against the Republican-controlled Senate's healthcare plan, which drew a tweeted complaint from President Trump.

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

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The GAO probe, reported by The Washington Examiner, comes after Interior's Office of Inspector General (OIG) closed its own investigation when Murkowski and her Republican Alaskan colleague Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanSenators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing Overnight Defense: Trump hits Iranian central bank with sanctions | Trump meeting with Ukrainian leader at UN | Trump touts relationship with North Korea's Kim as 'best thing' for US Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan MORE, who first reported the Trump administration's threat, refused to participate

“The OIG has conducted a preliminary review of this matter, including investigative and jurisdictional considerations, and concludes that further investigation would prove unproductive,” Interior’s Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote last week. 

Sullivan told The Alaska Dispatch News in August that Zinke said he would withhold department support for Alaska if Murkowski did not support the legislation. 

Sullivan called the the alleged conversation "troubling." 

Zinke has brushed off the claim, calling it "laughable." 

"I talk to Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan all the time,” Zinke said, according to E&E News.

“A lot's been said about a lot of things. But I talk to them all the time. We get along well," he said adding "The moon has been characterized as a threat, too, so I think it's laughable."