Zinke: I never took a private jet anywhere

Zinke: I never took a private jet anywhere
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Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute Zinke joins board of small gold mining company MORE on Tuesday pushed back on claims that he's used tax-payer money to fly on private planes, telling a congressional committee, "I never took a private jet anywhere."

Zinke said it was misleading to say he flew on private jets when he had flown on chartered King Air and prop planes.

Testifying in front of the Senate Natural Resources Committee on the Interior Department's budget plan, Zinke argued that saying these were private jets were "insults and innuendos."

Speaking to ranking member Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellMore than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington State rules complicate push for federal data privacy law MORE (D-Wash.), Zinke said of her questions on his private jet use, "I resent the fact of your insults, and I resent the fact that you mislead."

A number of Zinke's uses of chartered planes and jets are under investigation by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General.

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Zinke did not answer lingering questions regarding his use of a chartered plane to leave an appearance he made in Nevada to speak to the Las Vegas Golden Knights professional hockey team.

Zinke met with players on the hockey team at a hotel across the street from their practice facility last summer, a Golden Knights spokesman confirmed to CNN.

An Interior Department spokesperson said that Zinke's late-night private flight to Montana from the Nevada meeting cost taxpayers $12,375. The spokesperson and Zinke have both maintained that the flight was booked after no suitable commercial alternative was available.

Zinke told the committee Tuesday that he had taken the flight "late at night after traveling all across Nevada."

The secretary said that chartered plane use was not uncommon for Interior secretaries, commenting that Sally JewellSarah (Sally) Margaret JewellOvernight Energy: Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone | UN report offers dire climate warning | Trump expected to lift ethanol restrictions Zinke extends mining ban near Yellowstone Blind focus on ‘energy dominance’ may cripple Endangered Species Act MORE, the Interior secretary under President Obama, had also used chartered planes during her tenure.

"Sally Jewell, I think she was right. I think her travel patterns, even though she took a private charter airplane and took helicopters, as Interior secretary she was out hiking and doing what she was supposed to be doing," Zinke told the committee.

Zinke went on to liken the questions on his plane use to "attacks" on his office but said he was used to them.

"I can take attacks on myself and my family," he said. "We're a military family ... we live by 'Do right, fear no man, wake up and make sure we are accountable.' Everything I do is looked at through a whole legal team and office of ethics."

Across the Capitol, the House Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopStatehood bill could make Puerto Rico a state before 2020 Here's why Congress, not the president, should lead on environmental protection Overnight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year MORE (R-Utah), in October announced a probe into Zinke's use of charter and military aircraft.

Bishop, along with Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), sent a letter asking for details on use of various types of aircraft by the Trump administration official.

But the Republicans also said they would look at how extensively Zinke’s predecessors in the Obama administration — Jewell and Ken Salazar — used private and government planes.