TO THE list of Trump administration officials who seem to believe that the rules need not apply to them, add Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The latest evidence comes from a report of the Interior Department inspector general, which The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey revealed. Investigators found that Mr. Zinke’s wife, Lolita Zinke, traveled with him on official trips in government vehicles, though doing so violated department policy. Interior staff warned the secretary that it would be “cleanest” and “lowest risk” if he did not give his wife rides in government vehicles, but he did so anyway, on the notion that the policy did not apply to him. He has since changed the policy to allow the spousal rides.
More disturbingly, the inspector general found that the government spent more than $25,000 to send an unarmed security detail on Mr. Zinke’s vacation to Greece and Turkey last summer, an outrageous expense that should have raised red flags in the secretary’s mind. And the inspector general found that Mr. Zinke invited two of his former fundraisers on an official trip to the Channel Islands in California, without telling relevant Interior officials who they were.
Mr. Zinke’s staff insists that “he has followed all laws and regulations and has sought and complied with all legal and ethics counsel he has received.” If this is what compliance looks like, some serious ethics reform is needed at the Interior Department.
These, meanwhile, are only a few of the ethics questions swirling around Mr. Zinke. Interior’s inspector general is overseeing at least four investigations of the secretary. Mr. Zinke and his wife have been involved with an executive from Halliburton, a drilling firm affected by Interior Department decisions, in a Montana land deal. The secretary held up a proposed casino in Connecticut after meeting with MGM lobbyists opposing what would have been new competition.
And one should not forget Mr. Zinke’s cynical abuse of his powers over offshore oil and gas drilling, giving Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is locked in a tight race for U.S. Senate this year, a special exception from the Trump administration’s move to open American shores to exploration. The secretary flew to Florida to pose in a photo op with Mr. Scott, who got treatment no other governor in the nation received — and a boost to his campaign.
Is this what President Trump meant when he said he would drain the swamp and hire only the best people?