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 ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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 CantwellLooking to the past to secure America's clean energy future Democrats demand more action from feds on unruly airline passengers Delta variant's spread hampers Labor Day air travel, industry recovery 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 JewellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA declines to tighten key air pollution standards | Despite risks to polar bears, Trump pushes ahead with oil exploration in Arctic | Biden to champion climate action in 2021 OVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA proposes reapproving uses of pesticide linked to brain damage in children | Hispanic caucus unhappy with transition team treatment of Lujan Grisham | Schwarzenegger backs Nichols to lead EPA 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 BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler 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.