Ryan Zinke’s travel violations while serving with Navy SEAL Team 6 were more serious than previously reported, an online news source reports.
Zinke, now a member of the U.S. House, has been nominated to serve as secretary of the Interior under President-Elect Donald Trump.
The Intercept, founded in 2014 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, reports that Zinke continued to travel improperly after he was forced to repay $211 in travel expenses for falsely claiming that he was traveling to Montana to scout for training locations. The trips actually were to visit his mother and to work on repairs to a house he planned to live in after retirement, Intercept reporter Matthew Cole wrote.
“The offense would normally have been serious enough to have ended Zinke’s career, but senior officers at SEAL Team 6 did not formally punish him,” Cole reported.
Instead, Zinke was told he would no longer be eligible for assignments with the SEAL team, and he retired in 2008 as a Navy commander.
The report was based on information from four anonymous sources, three former unit leaders and a military consultant. One of the sources reportedly was “incensed” that Zinke was not punished, Cole said. The sources were granted anonymity because “nearly every facet of SEAL Team 6 is classified,” the report said.
Allegations of improper travel surfaced during Zinke’s 2014 campaign for the U.S. House in Montana. Zinke released fitness reports showing that he had been required to pay the Navy back for a trip to Montana, and he acknowledged that his travel claims had been “a little aggressive for a junior officer.”
But he did continue to maintain that the trips had been made to look for new training sites in Montana.
With that exception in 1999, Zinke’s fitness reports otherwise attest to a sterling record in the Navy, including multiple recommendations that he be sent to the War College or promoted. Concerns over his travel violations were raised in 2014 by retired Navy SEAL Larry Bailey, who claimed the violations ruined Zinke’s naval career.
Bailey also was a birther who believed President Obama was a socialist raised by communists, The Atlantic has reported.