Zinke used government helicopters to travel to and from DC: report

Zinke used government helicopters to travel to and from DC: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Zinke, Lewandowski join Trump veterans’ lobbying firm Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? MORE used government helicopters to transport himself and staffers between events and locations near Washington, D.C., according to a new report.

Travel logs obtained by Politico show that Zinke spent more than $14,000 on the helicopter trips, which were provided by the U.S. Park Police.

One such trip was to an emergency management exercise in Shepherdstown, W.Va., in June. Zinke reportedly ordered a helicopter ride to the town, which is two hours away from Washington, because his schedule would not allow him to leave D.C. in time to drive.

According to the documents obtained by Politico, the official business keeping Zinke in Washington was the swearing-in ceremony for newly elected Rep. Greg GianforteGregory Richard GianforteSarah Sanders: ‘Absurd’ to say Trump has encouraged violence at rallies Montana Dems introduce bill increasing penalties for assaulting journalists Here are the lawmakers who will forfeit their salaries during the shutdown MORE (R-Mont.).

The flight to West Virginia after the ceremony cost $8,000, according to Politico.

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Another instance saw Zinke and another Interior Department official flying to and from Yorktown, Va., in a single day in July. During the trip, Zinke attended a roundtable discussion with boating industry representatives and visited a site of future high-voltage electric transmission lines, according to Politico.

Zinke again used a Park Police helicopter on his way back from Yorktown, reportedly in order to make it back to Washington in time for a horseback ride with Vice President Pence. Politico reports the flight cost around $6,250.

The documents obtained by Politico show an Interior official said the trip to and from Yorktown would allow Zinke to “familiarize himself with the in-flight capabilities of an aircraft he is in charge of.”

An Interior Department spokesperson called the report about the secretary's travels "garbage."

"After a congressional hearing, the Secretary attended an official Congressional event with the new Congressman from Montana (who replaced him) and the Speaker of the House before going to an emergency management briefing," Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

"On the other occasion he did an aerial survey of a power line corridor, which was pending before the Department, while traveling back from meetings in southern Virginia in order to get to a meeting with the Vice President."

The Interior Department’s inspector general said in October it was investigating Zinke’s use of chartered planes after it was reported Zinked and his aides had taken multiple flights on chartered or military planes to travel to his home state of Montana, as well as to travel to events between two Caribbean islands.

Zinke called the reports “a little BS” at the time, saying that he used the planes only when “no commercial options existed” to fit the schedule. 

Tim Cama contributed 

Updated: 10:21 p.m.