Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), who is the likely head of the House committee overseeing the Interior Department, called for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to resign in an op-ed Friday over ethics scandals. Zinke responded in a blistering statement accusing Grijalva of alcoholism and abuse of taxpayer funds.
Zinke's reference to the $50,000 in "hush money" likely refers to the November 2017 report that a female Capitol Hill aide was paid almost $50,000 in taxpayer money in 2015 after she complained about Grijlava's drinking and office environment.
Grijalva acknowledged the settlement at the time but refused to discuss the details.
In his op-ed for USA Today, Grijalva pointed to the many ethics probes into Zinke’s conduct and a recent referral to the Department of Justice.
“As has been widely reported, an Interior Department inspector general investigation of Mr. Zinke — one of at least 17 publicly known formal probes of either him or his department since he took office — was recently referred to the Justice Department,” he wrote. “The referral centers on a land development project called 95 Karrow in Mr. Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont., involving David Lesar, the chairman of oil contractor Halliburton; his son John; and a Montana property developer named Casey Malmquist. The proposal would increase the value of land controlled by Mr. Zinke’s family.”
He also accused Zinke of overseeing “the dumbing down of science, often with a partisan edge.”
An Inspector General report for the Interior Department accused Zinke in October of seeking to go around department policies to go on taxpayer-funded trips with his wife, Lola. It adds that he violated policy by traveling with her in federal vehicles.
Zinke argued that “the policy and procedures that governed this had been longstanding in the Government and that he was allowed to have his wife, ‘direct family’ and any other guests accompany him in security detail vehicles as long as they went through the approval process,” according to the report.
The DOI is also investigating Zinke's decision to stop the construction of a casino on a Massachusetts tribe’s land after MGM lobbied against it.