Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is under investigation by the agency's Office of the Inspector General after allegations that he threatened Alaska's senators with reprisals after Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against Trumpcare. In phone calls to Senators Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, he supposedly implied that the state could face economic penalties.
His threatening phone call followed a series of tweets by President Trump condemning Murkowski for her vote.
The investigation was spurred by a bipartisan request, illustrating that this isn't a Democrat versus Republican issue, but a question of ethical conduct at federal agencies. Holding the threat of key contracts, grants, licenses, and jobs over a state when lawmakers fail to vote along party lines is very worrying. It also raises questions about how business is conducted at the department under Zinke's oversight — do you have to play party politics to get the support of the agency?
If this investigation demonstrates that Zinke did commit ethics violations, President Trump would have grounds for dismissal. Firing cabinet secretaries is rare, but has occurred in the past. However, in this case it seems unlikely that the president will protect the interests of the American people. Congress must step in to hold impeachment hearings to remove him from office.
Photo: Gage Skidmore