The leader of the Interior Department discussed the controversy surrounding his travel expenses and his take on the job he has held for more than seven months in an interview with Amanda House, the deputy editor of Breitbart’s Big Government silo, on a live Facebook feed Sunday.
“I always felt there are two great things that we should fund, our military for the defense of our great country and the parks and public lands for the defense of generations to come,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman and a retired Navy commander, who served as a Navy SEAL, both in kinetic operations and in command. Zinke was expected to run for the Senate in Montana before he was chosen to lead Interior.
As tensions rise between the Vice President Michael R. Pence’s staff and President Donald J. Trump’s staff, Zinke is seen as a strong choice to join the 2020 ticket with Trump if Pence resigns to challenge Trump in the primary or is dropped by the president.
House was talking to Zinke after he returned from a trip to Florida to survey the damage from huricanes Irma and Maria.
House: You’ve come under criticism from our friends on the left for these trips. What are your thoughts on these Democrats that have come out against you?
Zinke: Unmitigated, 100 percent B.S.
Zinke said an example of how his trips have been mischaracterized is his March trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, which he said was called a vacation in the press. The trip was the subject of a story in Politico, which ties the trip to Zinke meeting with local Republicans.
CNN reported Oct. 2 that Interior’s Office of the Inspector General had opened an investigation into the secretary’s travel.
The man, who once commanded SEAL Team Six, said he flew commercial coach to the Virgin Islands as the representative of President Donald J. Trump at ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the transfer of the Virgin Islands from Denmark to the United States.
On his trip to Florida, Zinke said he saw firsthand how the recovery was going and he also checked into the condition of the National Everglades National Park.
The Everglades require a major infrastructure projects that with the cooperation of the Army Corps of Engineers will undo past mistakes in managing the region and will repair damage from the hurricanes, he said.
Speaking more generally, Zinke said his travel regiment as part of his management style, which is to enpower people actually doing the job and to meet with them to see for himself what is going on.
“As a former Navy commander, I have always wanted to go out on the front lines and talk to real people,” he said. “The view from Washington is so much different than the view from the field.”