What's up with Ryan Zinke?

Interior secretary's trips may have violated law
Interior secretary's trips may have violated law


    Interior secretary's trips may have violated law


Interior secretary's trips may have violated law 03:11

(CNN)The Trump administration can be a really, really strange operation.

Odd anecdotes emerge with startling frequency, often in jumbles of three, four or five.
Multiple Cabinet secretaries have seen their use of expensive chartered or military jet travel questioned. Tom Price resigned as Health and Human Services secretary, pushed out after reporters at Politico revealed the extent -- and cost to taxpayers -- of his swishy flight habits.
And while the primary source of White House weirdness resides in the home itself, Trump's secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, has emerged as an able headline-grabber in his own right. Most of the stories are more serious -- Zinke, during his short time in the job, has already sparked controversy on the policy front, moving to expand hunting and fishing access on public lands and, even more controversially, recommending shrinking a number of national monuments.
    But it's more than just policy; his approach to the job sets him apart. Here are a few other tales to recall.

    Trump's muscle?

    After Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted against advancing one of the failed health care bills this past summer, she and fellow Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, received calls from Zinke. As Sullivan described it to the Alaska Dispatch News, the secretary -- who had no apparent role in the health care fight -- threatened to withhold resources from the state.
    "I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that 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 said, describing the conversation. Zinke later described suggestions he was delivering a threat as "laughable." Murkowski remained a holdout on an assortment of ill-fated Republican plans.

    Flying his flag and sharing his coins

    Zinke has taken an unusual step to broadcast his whereabouts to the public.
    The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a special flag rises above the Interior Department's headquarters when Zinke is working from the office. When he leaves the building, be it for the night or to travel -- perhaps to Las Vegas! -- the colors disappear with him.
    Asked about this uncommon practice, a spokeswoman drily informed the Post that it should be regarded as "a major sign of transparency." (Zinke's deputy, David Bernhardt, has a flag of his own. It gets a run out when the boss leaves.)
    The same account also details another bright and shiny idea Zinke had for making his presence known, or remembered.
    You know how frustrating it is when you meet someone and have a nice chat, then walk away and realize you've totally forgotten their name?
    Well what if that person -- as Zinke reportedly does -- had during the meeting handed you a commemorative coin with his name on it? Problem solved. The Post report notes that past secretaries, and those in other departments, also have coins, but the personalization is a special touch.

    Office video games ... for the cause

    On September 19, the department in a (quickly viral) press release announced the following:
    "Today, ​on the heels of a groundbreaking directive to expand hunting access on public lands, ​US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced ​his latest initiative to reemphasize hunting and fishing at the Department with ​a new​ temporary​ addition​ to the employee cafeteria:​ ​the arcade game 'Big Buck Hunter Pro.'"
    To be clear, Zinke mandated the installation of an arcade-style game meant to encourage department employees to play a hunting video game during their lunch hours. The he started tweeting out pictures of it, including one captioned to inform viewers that a colleague had "bested me today in the #ShotgunShowdown."

    The horse he rode in on

    Zinke made his debut as interior secretary by riding a horse -- a gelding named "Tonto," per a New York Times report -- through the streets of Washington, DC, up to his new office space. He arrived, alongside US Park Police, and was greeted there by department staffers.
    The pictures suggest a kind enough reception, though it's unclear whether the initial warmth survived the subsequent months. Speaking to an oil industry group in September, Zinke informed the room that he's "got 30% of the crew that's not loyal to the flag."
    "There's too many ways in the present process for someone who doesn't want to get (a regulatory action) done to put it in a holding pattern," he said, according to the AP. The implication was that his employees were not fully given to his and Trump's agenda.
    "We do have good people," he said, "but the direction has to be clear, and you've got to hold people accountable."
    Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell, the ranking member of the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, later called the comments a "cheap shot" and said his staff members "deserve respect from the man charged with leading them."
    Perhaps a commemorative coin will do in its place.