An internal investigation into a series of reportedly threatening calls made by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the run up to the Senate’s vote on health care has been shutdown after Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan refused to discuss the conversation.
The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General launched a preliminary investigation into reports by the Alaska Dispatch News and the Alaska Journal of Commerce that Zinke threatened to shut down development in Alaska if the two didn’t support the GOP repeal of Obamacare.
The Interior’s Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall in a letter today told the lawmakers who requested the investigation that “further investigation would prove unproductive” because Murkwoski and Sullivan declined to participate in the probe. Kendall also notes that she has no power to force them to talk, either.
“Given that both senators have declined to be interviewed or give a statement, the OIG does not believe that it could meaningfully investigate the matter further,” Kenall explains in a letter to U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Frank Pallone.
NEWS: Interior IG shuts down investigation re Zinke apparent effort to lobby Sen Murkowski re Obamacare, after Murkowski declines answer ?s pic.twitter.com/pH4bvhtc4M
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) August 30, 2017
Whether there were threats or just a friendly conversation, none of it worked. Murkowski stayed firm to her position, casting one of the three Republican votes needed to defeat the repeal of Obamacare, and later reporting suggested that the calls only solidified her stance.
A recent New York Times story included a reference to the call, noting that Murkowski told colleagues “when Mr. Trump’s interior secretary threatened to pull back federal funding for her state, she felt boxed in and unable to vote for the health care bill.”
The alleged threats were only vaguely disclosed by Sullivan, who told the ADN he feared “the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop.”
In the time since, Zinke has made a show of playing nice with Alaska including sharing a cold one with Murkowski. The administration also hasn’t slowed down its “pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs” policies and earlier this month announced plans to begin considering opening up much more of the North Slope to oil development.
Murkowski has never disclosed the content of those calls, and later said she doesn’t “like to take private conversations that I have and outline them in the media.”
That goes for federal watchdogs, too.