Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona called for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to resign Friday morning in a step he called “unavoidable” because of Zinke’s “ethical and managerial failings.”
Grijalva is the lead Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is poised to take over the chairman position on the committee when the House transitions to Democratic control. As chairman of the committee, Grijalva would be in charge of congressional oversight of the Department of the Interior (DOI). (RELATED: A Top Priority Of Democrats If They Take The House? Going After Ryan Zinke)
“The American people need an Interior Department focused on addressing climate change, enhancing public recreation, protecting endangered species and upholding the sovereign rights of Native American communities,” Grijalva wrote in an op-ed for USA Today. “The department needs someone accountable at the helm who believes in this mission.”
“Mr. Zinke is not that person. Federal agencies cannot function without credible leadership, and he offers none. He needs to resign,” Grijalva wrote.
Grijalva promised to turn up the pressure on the DOI, and as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, he would have the tools to do it. The majority party on the committee has broad authority to issue subpoenas and set the schedule for hearings in Congress. Grijalva with the support of his fellow Democrats on the committee could potentially drag Zinke into the House for investigative hearings over and over.
“As ranking member, I have sent dozens of unanswered letters seeking information about Interior Department policies and Mr. Zinke’s conduct,” Grijalva wrote. “Should I chair the committee in January, as I hope to do, those questions will only intensify as part of my and my colleagues’ legitimate oversight duties.”
“Such scrutiny will extend to his successor, who should not be encouraged by Mr. Zinke’s example,” Grijalva warned should Zinke be replaced.
Zinke has faced an unusually high amount of investigations for a DOI secretary. The Office of Special Counsel and the inspector general for the DOI confirmed a combined 15 ethics and misconduct investigations into Zinke. The same two watchdogs investigated the four prior DOI secretaries a total of 11 times.
Zinke appeared on Fox News late Thursday night to defend himself against critics attacking him over the relatively high amount of ethics probes.
“I am 10 for 10,” Zinke told Fox host Shannon Bream, referring to the investigations that have been initiated and concluded. “I’ve been investigated on my socks. I’ve been investigated for taking jets, which I don’t. I’ve had 10 investigations completed and you know what they all say? Ryan Zinke follows all the rules, all the regulations, all the procedures.”
The DOI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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