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Trump’s interior secretary Ryan Zinke caught raising political funds on government trip: report

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The head of the U.S. Department of the Interior came under further scrutiny on Thursday amid a media report that he had attended a Republican fundraiser in March during a government trip to the Caribbean.

Politico, citing department travel records and other documents, said Ryan Zinke attended a Virgin Islands Republican Party fundraiser where donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photograph with the secretary.

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The report comes as multiple investigations into the former one-term congressman’s travel while serving in the Trump administration were announced this week following various media reports on the subject.

On Monday, the Interior Department’s watchdog agency said it was probing Zinke’s travels after recent reports that he had used a private plane owned by an oil executive.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said it was investigating whether he broke the law in June when he gave a speech to a professional hockey team owned by a political donor.

Other Cabinet members have also been scrutinized over their use of taxpayer money for more expensive private travel rather than less expensive commercial trips.

Former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned on Friday following an uproar over his use of costly private charter planes.

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U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have also come under question over their private plane use.

Questions have also been raised about the cost of security for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos.

Democratic House lawmakers earlier this week called on Zinke to disclose the full details of all of his privately chartered airplane trips.

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In a letter to the secretary, lawmakers pointed to one reported $12,000 private flight from Nevada to Montana, a route they said commercial airlines charge as little as $300 for.

“Abuse of taxpayer money has so far been a problem for the Trump administration,” the group of 26 lawmakers wrote on Tuesday.

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Representatives for Zinke did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Politico report Thursday.

Separately, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has said he is seeking information on any private, non-commercial or military flights taken by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.

U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, in a statement released on Wednesday, also said he was seeking evidence that Price had repaid U.S. taxpayers for his private flights.

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Representatives for the White House said on Thursday that U.S. agencies were responsible for arranging their own transportation, and that Cabinet members “occasionally invite relevant White House staff for official travel” that is then “planned and secured by the inviting agency.”

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)


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Andrew Cuomo rips Trump like never before: ‘This was the worst government blunder in modern history’

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) on Monday accused President Donald Trump of presiding over "the worse government blunder in modern history."

At his daily COVID-19 briefing, Cuomo said that it was time for the president to hit the "reset button" on his handling of the pandemic.

"If we don't tell the truth on the reset, COVID will never end," the New York governor explained. "It will ricochet across the country. It will just bounce back and forth."

"This was a colossal blunder -- how COVID was handled by this federal government," he continued. "Shame on all of you. Six months, lives lost. Hit the reset button, yes."

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Trump snaps at Jim Acosta for reminding him of coronavirus death toll: ‘Fake news CNN’

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President Donald Trump on Monday snapped at CNN's Jim Acosta when he reminded the president that the novel coronavirus so far has killed 155,000 Americans.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, the president boasted that the United States had done an "amazing" job at handling the COVID-19 pandemic, at which point Acosta interrupted him and tried to ask him about the 155,000 people who have died from the disease in just five months.

"The U.S. has so many deaths," Acosta said.

"Hold it!" Trump replied.

"So many countries around the world..."

"Fake news CNN," he said. "Hold it. We have done a great job in this country. We haven't been given enough -- not me, Vice President Pence, the task force -- have not been given the kind of credit."

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COVID-19 obituary blames Republicans for Texas man’s untimely end: ‘They blame his death on Trump’

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One family in Texas recently used their loved one’s obituary to criticize President Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for allowing “needless” COVID-19 deaths.

David W. Nagy died alone in a hospital bed, leaving behind his "inconsolable wife."

"He suffered greatly from the ravages of the COVID-19 virus and the separation from his much loved family who were not allowed at his bedside," the obituary says.

"Family members believe David's death was needless," the obituary continues. "They blame his death and the deaths of all of the other innocent people, on Trump, Abbott and all the other politicians who did not take this pandemic seriously and were more concerned with their popularity and votes than lives."

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