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Interior watchdog investigating Zinke's use of chartered jets

Interior watchdog investigating Zinke's use of chartered jets
© Greg Nash

The Interior Department’s office of inspector general is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGuilfoyle named as national chair of Greitens' Senate campaign in Missouri Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP Missouri Senate candidate Eric Greitens tangles with Hugh Hewitt in testy interview MORE’s use of chartered planes, a department spokesperson confirmed.

Nancy K. DiPaolo, spokeswoman for Interior’s inspector general's office, said the office began its investigation into the use of the chartered jets late last week.

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Politico, which also broke the news of the inspector general's investigation, first reported last week that 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.

He also used a military plane in August to survey wildfires in Montana with Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueSonny PerdueThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Georgia election day is finally here; Trump hopes Pence 'comes through for us' to overturn results Civil war between MAGA, GOP establishment could hand Dems total control Trump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions MORE. Both agencies plan to reimburse the Air Force for the use of the plane.

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

“The flights were only booked after extensive due diligence by the career professionals in the department’s general law and ethics division,” he said.

Zinke is the latest Trump administration official to face scrutiny over his travel.

Former Health Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceA proposal to tackle congressional inside trading: Invest in the US Biden health nominee faces first Senate test Focus on cabinet nominees' effectiveness and expertise, not just ideology MORE resigned Friday after it was revealed he had spent more than $400,000 in taxpayer funds on private jets for government travel.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittScientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels MORE have also used noncommercial travel while working in the Trump administration.