House Democrat says investigations await Interior Department despite Zinke's resignation

The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee said Tuesday that he has moved past personal attac...

Posted: Dec 19, 2018 7:43 AM
Updated: Dec 19, 2018 7:43 AM

The top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee said Tuesday that he has moved past personal attacks by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and he would keep investigating Zinke's tenure despite his resignation.

Asked by CNN's Erin Burnett whether he would move on from Zinke's insults, Grijalva said yes.

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"Yes, because I think ... he's got serious problems that he has to deal with in terms of the investigations, in terms of the oversight our committee is going to do," he said on "Erin Burnett OutFront." "The issue is Interior, the issue is conservation, the issue is science, and the issue is our jurisdiction in protecting the many interests we have there, including Indian Country -- so that's the job ahead."

When Grijalva called for Zinke to resign in an op-ed last month, Zinke shot back on Twitter that it was "hard for (Grijalva) to think straight from the bottom of the bottle."

"This is coming from a man who used nearly $50,000 in tax dollars as hush money to cover up his drunken and hostile behavior. He should resign and pay back the taxpayer for the hush money and tens of thousands of dollars he forced my department to spend investigating unfounded allegations," Zinke wrote in the tweet.

Grijalva was cleared of any wrongdoing in the settlement Zinke was referring to and the Arizona Democrat called the allegations "all fraudulent."

The ranking Democrat -- and likely committee chairman when Democrats take the House majority in January -- said the House Natural Resources Committee would be seeking changes within a department that he said is "always about energy extraction" and led by people with "severe conflicts of interest, both inside Interior with Zinke and with other people that are part of his administration."

"We're going to be seeking some balance, bringing conservation and science back into the equation," Grijalva said. "That's going to be the effort and that's going to require on occasion that we dig a lot deeper than just the surface material we get from Interior."

Zinke "is gone, but I don't think the culture in the place has changed so much these last two years ... we have to go after that culture, too," the congressman added.

When asked by Burnett if he would continue his exchanges with Zinke on a personal level, Grijalva said no.

"What's the point?" he said. "You reach that conclusion, he's gone, but his decision and the way he reached those decisions are still open to public review and public scrutiny."

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