Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva, a sharp critic of the Trump administration, says he was upset when he first heard Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke call him a drunk on Twitter.
“My first reaction, I was really, really angry and I wanted to defend myself and take a shot back,” Grijalva told The Washington Post. The Arizona Democrat was referring to a tweet Zinke sent on Nov. 30.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 30, 2018
“It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle. This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior,” the interior secretary said of Grijalva at the time. Zinke issued the statement in response to Grijalva’s op-ed in November that called for the interior secretary to step down.
Zinke’s reference to “hush money” regarded a 2015 payout between Grijalva and a staffer who threatened to sue, claiming the Democratic lawmaker was regularly drunk and created a hostile work environment. Grijalva agreed to pay the staffer nearly $50,000 in taxpayer money in return for not leveling a lawsuit.
The Democratic lawmaker claims that he once had a drinking problem, but that it’s now under control. The Arizona Democrat was patronizing a local Washington, D.C., bar when Zinke sent the tweet. Grijalva was due for an interview on C-SPAN later that day, but decided to cancel, WaPo reported Thursday.
President Donald Trump announced Saturday that Zinke would be stepping down from his position at the end of the year. The outgoing interior secretary cited “false attacks” and “fictitious allegations” as reasons for his decision to leave. Zinke had been dogged by numerous ethical allegations, and the Democratic Party’s imminent control of the lower chamber of Congress meant he would likely be called to testify in House hearings in 2019.
It’s not immediately clear if Grijalva — who is designated to become chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee in January — will call on Zinke to testify. The Arizona Democrat, however, has said he is still interested in investigating Zinke, even after he leaves the Interior Department.
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