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Back on the Hill, Ryan Zinke pushes odd line about ‘deep state’

Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke apparently wants to be seen not as an ethically challenged politician, but rather as a victim of “deep state” scoundrels.


As House Republicans prepared to create a new subcommittee to investigate conspiracy theories about the “weaponization” of government, one lawmaker seemed especially eager to endorse the panel’s goals. In fact, Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana said he has a lot of “firsthand” experience with the issue:

“Despite the deep state’s repeated attempts to stop me, I stand before you as a duly elected member of the United State Congress and tell you that a deep state exists, and it is perhaps the strongest covert weapon the left has against the American people. There is no doubt the federal government deep state coordinates with liberal activists and uses politicians and willing media to carry their water. The deep state runs secret messaging campaigns with one goal in mind: to increase its power [and] to censor and persuade the American people.”

Just so we’re clear, the GOP congressman didn’t appear to be kidding. Zinke, speaking from the floor of the House during a congressional debate, seriously asked people to believe that there are nefarious political actors, using the levers of federal power, coordinating plots with allies, and running secret campaigns to advance their insidious agenda.

As for why in the world Zinke made such an argument, it probably has something to do with his extensive record of ethics scandals.

As regular readers know, the Montana Republican’s tenure as Donald Trump’s interior secretary was almost cartoonishly provocative. Zinke came under at least 15 different investigations — not because a bunch of deep state rascals conspired against him, but because there was quite a bit of evidence of wrongdoing against him.

Zinke ultimately resigned under a cloud of controversy. But even after leaving the nation’s capital, he was haunted by his record.

Last February, the Interior Department’s inspector general concluded that Zinke lied to investigators about his involvement in a Montana land deal and had run afoul of federal ethics rules. In August, the inspector general’s office released the findings of an entirely separate matter in which Zinke was also found to have knowingly — and “repeatedly” — made false statements to federal investigators.

Voters in Montana’s 1st Congressional District elected him anyway, though it was close, and the Republican didn’t quite crack the 50% threshold.

As Zinke begins his congressional career anew — he served two years in the chamber before joining Trump’s Cabinet — he apparently wants to be seen not as a politician burdened by multiple ethics controversies, but rather as a victim of secret scoundrels who launch plots from the shadows.

Good luck with that, congressman.