Federal watchdog launches ‘preliminary investigation’ into Zinke’s reported threats to Alaska

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke takes questions in Nevada. (Photo by U.S. Department of the Interior)

The Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General has begun an investigation into widely reported threats made by Secretary Ryan Zinke during calls to Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan over last week’s health care vote, The Hills reports.

The investigation follows requests by two House Democrats with ranking positions on the energy and commerce committee, and natural resources committee to look into the calls. Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall informed the two Thursday night the office had begun a “preliminary investigation” into the matter.

According to The Hill, the letter explained:

“The OIG is undertaking a preliminary investigation into this matter,” Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said in a letter to two House Democrats on Thursday.

“We will advise you about what further action the results of this inquiry lead the OIG to take.”

The calls were first reported by the Alaska Journal of Commerce and the Alaska Dispatch News, both based on interviews with Sullivan or his spokesman. In both, Sullivan shied away from the specifics of the call, but expressed concern about potential repercussions for Murkowski’s votes against the ultimately doomed Republican repeal of Obamacare.

Murkowski, for her part, declined to talk about the details of her call, later telling the ADN she doesn’t “like to take the private conversations that I have and outline them in the media.”

Zinke called such threats “laughable” over the weekend, and later posted a picture sharing beers with Murkowski to his Twitter.

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