Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivers a speech billed as "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" at the Heritage Foundation on September 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
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Trump’s most scandal-plagued secretary takes a lot of ‘personal days’


The New York Times published a round-up last week of pending investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and at last count, there were 15. Media Matters, meanwhile, put together a timeline of “the Interior secretary’s questionable actions and controversies.” As of yesterday, it has 28 installments. including revelations from just this week about new materials that suggest the Republican cabinet secretary violated an ethics pledge.

One of Zinke’s scandals was recently referred to the Justice Department for a possible criminal investigation. We don’t know which of the scandals, but there are apparently many to choose from.

It’s against this backdrop that the Washington Post  reports that Zinke doesn’t appear to be working especially hard, either.

Recently released public records show that Zinke has taken an unconventional approach to his job at times, including arranging meetings with multiple billionaires and taking 66 days of personal leave during his first year and-a-half on the job. […[

Public records also show that Zinke took 66 “personal days” between March 2017 and August 2018, excluding weekends and federal holidays. That total exceeds the 39 annual days off federal senior executives would be given during that same period.

Center for Western Priorities spokesman Aaron Weiss, whose group is a sharp critic of Zinke, questioned why the secretary would take so much time off when Cabinet members usually only serve for a few years. “You don’t have a lot of time to get stuff done,” Weiss said. “What kind of message does that send if you’re not even in the office approximately one week out of four?”

The same article added that White House officials consider Zinke “the Cabinet member most vulnerable to a congressional probe under a Democratic majority in January.”

Which probably helps explain why he’s reportedly working on an exit strategy.

Politico  reported this week that Zinke is not only eyeing a possible departure from the Trump administration, he’s also “reached out” to Fox News about a possible job with the Republican network.

As for his boss, a reporter asked Donald Trump this morning if he’s going to fire Zinke. “No,” the president replied. “I’m going to look into any complaints…. If there are any complaints, I’ll look into it.”

There are, of course, a few things to keep in mind. One is there are plenty of Zinke-related “complaints” – the guy is at the center of 15 ongoing investigations – which suggests Trump should’ve already looked into. Another is “look into it” is often Trump code for “nothing is going to happen.”

And finally, just because the president said he isn’t going to get rid of a cabinet secretary, that doesn’t mean the secretary should make any long-term employment plans.