Inspector General opens investigation into Interior Secretary’s threats to Alaskan Senators over Trumpcare vote

The Department of Interior’s Inspector General is investigating whether Secretary Ryan Zinke committed “legal and ethical violations” when he threatened to withdraw federal support for Alaska’s energy and infrastructure projects to punish Sen. Lisa Murkowski for voting against the Obamacare repeal.

“The OIG is undertaking a preliminary investigation into this matter,” wrote Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall in a letter dated Aug. 3.

The Inspector General’s investigation was opened at the request of Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The day after Murkowski voted against H.R. 1628, the “American Health Care Act” (also known as “Trumpcare”), President Donald Trump singled out the senior senator from Alaska for attack on Twitter.

“Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, our country, down yesterday. Too bad!” Trump tweeted.

Later, Zinke called Murkowski and her colleague, Sen. Dan Sullivan, to convey what Sullivan characterized as a “troubling” message: Murkowski’s vote against Trumpcare has placed Alaska’s future in jeopardy.

Zinke’s threats were first reported by the Alaska Dispatch News.

“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear tht the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan told the Alaska Dispatch News.

According to CBS News, Murkowski confirmed a “difficult conversation” with Zinke following her vote.

“I did have a conversation with the secretary, and he told me what I already knew, which was that the president wasn’t pleased with the vote that I had taken, and I knew that,” Murkowski told CBS News.

Grijalva denounced Zinke’s threats of retaliation.

“Threatening to punish your rivals as political blackmail is something we’d see from the Kremlin. Secretary Zinke’s willingness to deliver these threats speaks volumes about his ethical standards and demonstrates that Interior’s policy positions are up for political grabs, rather than based on science or the public interest,” said Grijalva.

Western Values Project, a conservation group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking “[a]ll records related to calls between Secretary Zinke and Senators Murkowski and Sullivan between July 24 and July 26, 2017” as well as any records of calls between Zinke and Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and John McCain (R-Arizona) since July 1st.

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