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Zinke provided restricted site tours to friends: report

Zinke provided restricted site tours to friends: report
© Greg Nash

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Trump, California leaders clash over fires | Trump says oil prices should be 'much lower' | Zinke criticizes media coverage | Officials consider new truck pollution rule Trump, California battle over climate and cause of fires Zinke slams reporting on his scandals MORE and his wife Lola Zinke requested special tours and visits to national parks, monuments and the White House for friends and acquaintances, The Washington Post reported Friday.

Among those requests were a tour through the East Wing guided by White House staffers; a visit to the top of the Lincoln Memorial, which is off-limits to the public; and a guided tour of Joshua Tree National Park for "two friends from England," the Post reported. 

In one case, Jon Jorgenson, a yacht broker who once sold Lola Zinke a boat, accompanied the Zinkes on an official tour of California's Channel Islands National Park in April 2017.

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The Post's reporting is based on documents obtained from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the newspaper and the advocacy group Western Values Project. 

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, told the Post that Secretary Zinke “uses his own personal time to give tours of the Lincoln Memorial to employees, reporters, and the general public several times per month because he believes the more people who experience our parks, the better."

The Post also noted that some of its reporters were invited on a May 1 tour of the Lincoln Memorial, but declined to attend because of scheduling conflicts.

In a July 2017 email to Interior's then-director of scheduling Rusty Roddy, Zinke's scheduler Caroline Boulton noted that Lola Zinke had begun going "directly" to the National Park Service's congressional liaison Elaine Hackett about tours and other excursions.

"Better communication with Elaine is needed now that Lola goes directly to her for tours, etc.," Boulton wrote.

Interior officials in Republican and Democratic administrations have long offered lawmakers and White House officials tours of national parks and other sites.

Several Obama administration officials, including former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenOjeda announces bid to challenge Trump in 2020 Former Army paratrooper and congressional candidate Richard Ojeda files papers to run for president Biden presents Liberty Medal to George and Laura Bush: Bush was my opposition, not my enemy MORE, came under scrutiny when FOIA disclosures revealed that they had stayed at the Brinkerhoff Lodge in Grand Teton National Park for free, as Time Magazine reported in 2014. They later reimbursed the government for the trips.