Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is under investigation for all his dubiously justified travel on chartered jets, plus some free trips provided by campaign donors, but the Interior Department’s Inspector General has run into a bit of a problem: Zinke’s travel records are such a mess that it’s difficult to figure out what parts of his travel were for legitimate government business, what may have been personal travel, and whether Zinke also shoehorned some political fundraising into his official travel, too. The Washington Post obtained a copy of a memo sent from Interior’s Deputy Inspector General, Mary Kendall, to Zinke’s office, saying her investigation has been “delayed by absent or incomplete documentation for several pertinent trips.” Oopsies!
We also learn that the travel habits of Zinke’s wife Lolita are being examined. Kendall’s investigation is trying to sort out whether Ms. Zinke had traveled along on certain trips, and whether she needed to reimburse the government for those trips. Allegations that she took part in a dark odyssey through the psychological and moral landscape of middle America at the whims of a creepy old Englishman, are not, however, part of the investigation.
Zinke’s questionable travels include trips to Alaska to check out a steak house and do some fundraising and skiing, supposedly while also doing official business, as well as snorkeling in the Virgin Islands (and doing some fundraising) and taking trips on jets owned by campaign donors. The Interior department has insisted that all of Zinke’s travel has been on the up and up, and that he only flew on chartered planes when he couldn’t find a commercial flight. Or when he wanted to, whatevs.
Happily, the Interior Department has come up with a brilliant answer to the claim that Zinke’s travel records are screwy: Blame Barack Obama!
In a letter of response obtained by The Post, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt told Kendall that the department would provide the outstanding travel documents. But he blamed the Obama administration for any record-keeping issues.
“When I arrived at the Department in August 2017, it was clear to me that the Secretary and I inherited an organizational and operational mess from the previous administration,” Bernhardt wrote. “From my perspective … it appears that the exact same [travel] procedures and processes utilized by the previous Administration remain in place and continue to be dysfunctional.”
Funny, though, we don’t recall Sally Jewell or Ken Salazar ever coming under investigation for questionable use of government planes, although that’s undoubtedly because Hillary Clinton had all the witnesses murdered. Still, Bernhardt gave the narrative his best shot, claiming it was
“apparently unclear” until last week whether all of former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s travel records had been entered into the agency’s tracking system.
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In addition to Kendall’s investigation, Zinke’s travel is also being looked at by the Office of Special Counsel for possible violations of the Hatch Act, which forbids federal officials from doing politics while they’re performing official duties. Besides Zinke, other Trumpers being investigated for iffy travel include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, and former super-grifter HHS Secretary Tom Price.
It remains to be seen how each of those figures will blame their travel-grifting woes on Barack Obama, but we’re sure they’ll manage.