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 ZinkeAlaska oil and gas lease sale nets .5 million Former Koch adviser to oversee Interior Department's FOIA requests The Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda 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 PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueTrump administration to return refined grains to school lunches Trump turned California’s tragic fires into a shameless logging campaign Trump administration's shameless opportunism on forest fires 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 PriceOvernight Health Care: Top Trump refugee official taking new HHS job | Tom Price joins new Georgia governor's transition | FDA tobacco crackdown draws ire from the right Ex-health chief Price joins new Georgia governor's transition team Dem pollster says women candidates are better at connecting with voters on personal level 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 PruittOvernight Energy — Sponsored by the National Biodiesel Board — Court blocks Atlantic coast pipeline | Kerry calls Trump climate actions 'profoundly dangerous' | EPA asked to investigate Pruitt Fox News hits Watchdog groups call on EPA to probe past interaction with Fox News Trump moves to relax Obama-era water protections MORE have also used noncommercial travel while working in the Trump administration.