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Following former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation last summer amid numerous scandals regarding his lavish spending and extreme secrecy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke holds the dubious honor of being the Trump administration official under the most scrutiny by federal investigators—a fact one climate action group drew attention to in a comedic video this weekend.
Introducing an actor dressed in a Zinke mask as the “corrupt grifter-cowboy-friend-of-Halliburton,” Friends of the Earth (FOE) shredded President Donald Trump’s unsurprising selection of an Interior Secretary who has demonstrated loyalty to fossil fuel companies over groups that aim to protect U.S. public lands.
Inspired by the show “Billy on the Street” featuring comedian Billy Eichner, the Zinke stand-in wondered aloud “How the hell I’m still in office” before aggressively asking passersby on Capitol Hill: “Why won’t anyone fire me?”
As FOE’s stand-in boasted in the video, Zinke’s conduct in office has sparked 17 federal investigations. The Interior Department’s inspector general has opened probes into Zinke’s censorship of climate crisis data; his decision to block a casino project proposed by two Native American tribes after meeting with lobbyists; his involvement in a land deal with an executive at oil giant Halliburton; and his use of taxpayer funds for his wife’s travel as well as decor for his office—among other allegations.
As Common Dreams reported last month, at least one investigation has been referred to the Justice Department, indicating that the government suspects potentially criminal behavior by Zinke.
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FOE’s Zinke shrugged off the investigations, shouting, “What’s the big deal?” at one bystander who suggested he should be “very worried” that his own agency referred him to the DOJ.
According to the Washington Post, the Halliburton deal investigation is the one Inspector General Mary Kendall referred to the DOJ. In it, Zinke continued his involvement in a development project backed by the Halliburton executive in Montana after he was appointed head of the Interior—despite the fact that Halliburton’s business is significantly affected by the department’s policies and decisions.
The actor in the video referenced the deal several times, yelling at a large group of people, “Are you big oil? I’m looking for a new land deal!”
Following the Democratic takeover of the House, White House officials have grown concerned that Zinke could be vulnerable to a probe by House Democrats in addition to the federal investigations, according to the Post.
As the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) is “gearing up to grill Zinke on his personal conduct and management decisions.”
“This is our check and balance, our constitutional obligation and our jurisdiction,” Grijalva told the Post.
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