Zinke: ‘We have not imported one elephant’

Zinke: ‘We have not imported one elephant’
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Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Want 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' MORE on Thursday pushed back on criticism that the administration has greenlit new imports of African elephant trophies, telling a congressional committee that “we have not imported one elephant.”

Appearing before the House Natural Resources Committee to speak about the White House’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget, Zinke passed the buck on a new administration policy change that would open up elephant trophy imports on a case-by-case basis saying, “It’s not my policy.”

The policy, announced March 1, was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency under the Interior Department.

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Zinke’s response came after Rep. Jared HuffmanJared William HuffmanDem hopes for infrastructure vote hit brick wall Pelosi implores Democrats to 'embrace' emerging deal Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act MORE (D-Calif.) said the administration’s decision to allow the imports “represents an administration under undue influence by the National Rifle Association.”

Zinke said that the Interior Department was “on board with the president’s policy,” an apparent distinction from what the latest FWS policy states.

President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE, however, has not commented on the recent FWS decision. The last time he commented on elephant trophy imports, he called the act “terrible” and said, “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country].”

Zinke’s was also noncommital in comments about the Interior Department’s January proposal to expand offshore drilling in public waters.

When first asked about a commitment he made in January to remove Florida from the list of state waters under consideration for drilling, Zinke told the committee, “Florida did not get an exemption.”

Zinke said that the Sunshine State was instead given special consideration because of its drilling moratorium off the Gulf Coast and the fact that every state representative on both sides of the aisle reached out to his office in opposition to drilling.

When asked later in the hearing again about Florida’s supposed exemption, Zinke clarified that there would be no drilling.

“My commitment is that we will do no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida — but legally there is a process,” Zinke said.

He added that saying there would be an exemption created a big reaction but said, “My commitment remains steadfast."