Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is enmeshed in yet another scandal? Go figure.
It’s becoming difficult to keep up with all the various scandals in the Trump administration, but earlier in the month it was reported that Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, had conducted a mass reassignment of senior staffers that happened, as it turns out, to have included a strikingly large number of Native American employees.
That move is currently the subject of multiple federal investigations and resulted in an Inspector General’s report excoriating the action. If Zinke and his cohorts targeted those staffers due to their race or political stances, it would be flatly illegal. And while administration watchers speculated that the reassignments were part of the administration’s push to open a greater portion of tribal lands to fossil fuel companies—cleaning out staffers who might, due to their senior-level knowledge of the issues and laws involved, prove to be obstructions—Talking Points Memo reports that there’s also evidence to suggest two Trump appointees at the department have “long been hostile to Native concerns,” and that their involvement in making and defending the reassignments raises further suspicions that the action was, in fact, part of that ongoing hostility.
Both officials, Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, the department’s second in command, and Associate Deputy Secretary Jim Cason, served in top DOI posts during the George W. Bush administration, at a time of intense conflict between the agency and Native American tribes.
Cason, especially, appears to be open in his hostility toward those tribes. As associate deputy secretary of the department during the George W. Bush administration, he fought bitterly against the historic lawsuit arguing widespread government mismanagement of tribal lands; he continues to express contempt for the ruling, even into the current administration.