Senators' silence kills probe into Zinke's alleged Alaska threats

Senators' silence kills probe into Zinke's alleged Alaska threats
© Greg Nash

The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) is closing its investigation into Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInternational hunting council disbands amid litigation Europe deepens energy dependence on Russia Overnight Energy: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks MORE’s alleged threats against an Alaska senator during an ObamaCare fight last month after the lawmaker and her in-state colleague refused to participate in the probe.

In a letter to a pair of House Democrats who requested the investigation, Interior’s Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said her office “does not believe it could meaningfully investigate the matter further” because Alaska Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Lawmakers raise alarms over Trump coronavirus response | Top official warns virus appears inevitable in US | Democrats block two Senate abortion bills Overnight Energy: Critics pile on Trump plan to roll back major environmental law | Pick for Interior No. 2 official confirmed | JPMorgan Chase to stop loans for fossil fuel drilling in the Arctic MacGregor confirmed as Interior deputy chief MORE and Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, declined to be interviewed as part of the inquiry.

“The OIG has conducted a preliminary review of this matter, including investigative and jurisdictional considerations, and concludes that further investigation would prove unproductive,” Kendall wrote to Reps. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.).

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Sullivan told The Alaska Dispatch News last month that Zinke threatened to withhold Interior support for Alaska if Murkowski did not support an ObamaCare repeal bill favored by President Trump. At the time, Sullivan called the threat "troubling."

Murkowski was one of three Republicans to vote against the legislation, sinking the effort.

Trump singled out Murkowski after the vote.

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

Democrats and good-government watchdogs urged an investigation into Zinke's conduct, saying it showed an inappropriate heavy-handedness from the Trump administration.

Murkowski downplayed the incident, and Zinke said it was “laughable” that he would threaten Alaska over the healthcare vote.

Earlier this month, Zinke tweeted a picture of himself and Murkowski sharing beers, calling the senator a “friend.”