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Democrat wants investigation into Zinke’s ‘taxpayer-funded helicopter rides’

Democrat wants investigation into Zinke’s ‘taxpayer-funded helicopter rides’

Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellCan the climate movement survive populism? Lessons from 'yellow vest' protests Manchin’s likely senior role on key energy panel rankles progressives Senate advances Trump energy pick after Manchin flips MORE (D-Wash.) has called for an expanded probe into Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeTrump attends Army-Navy game Trump is no fan of trophy hunting — will he let giraffes go extinct? Trump admin floats reduced protections for imperiled sage grouse MORE's travel following a report he used government helicopters to transport himself and his staffers between locations and events in close proximity to Washington, D.C.

"I'm calling on @Interior Inspector General to add @SecretaryZinke's use of taxpayer-funded helicopter rides to the ongoing investigation into his use of taxpayer-funded private jets. If he misused public funds, he should write the treasury a check for the full amount & apologize," Cantwell said in a tweet on Friday.  

Cantwell's call comes after Politico reported that travel logs show Zinke spent over $14,000 on the helicopter trips, which were provided by the U.S. Park Police. 

The Interior Department’s inspector general launched an investigation in October into Zinke’s use of chartered planes after it was reported Zinke 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.

The office has not confirmed whether its probe involves Zinke's helicopter use. 

"We are taking a comprehensive look at the secretary's travel since he took office," Nancy DiPaolo, the inspector general's spokeswoman, told CNN.

Zinke's office is pushing back on the reports, calling them "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," she continued.