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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.

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

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.

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

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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2020 Election

GOP’s cancellation of presidential primaries could blow up in Trump’s face — here’s why

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In recent weeks, Republican state party committees have been moving to cancel presidential primaries to prevent Never-Trump conservatives, like former Reps. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) and former Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA), from challenging the president from the right. So far, Republicans in Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and South Carolina have all announced they will scrap the voting process for 2020.

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Mike Pence should be investigated for his part in Ukraine negotiations and ‘we need some answers’: Ex-prosecutor

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On MSNBC's "AM Joy" Saturday, former federal prosecutor Joyce Vance agreed with host Joy Reid that Vice President Mike Pence could be involved in the Ukraine whistleblower cover-up — and that Congress needs to act to learn the truth for the American people.

"Let me go to you on this very quickly, Joyce, because here's the question for Mike Pence," said Reid. "Mike Pence has been sort of severed from all of the other questions that are relating to potential impeachment for Donald Trump, that the House is wrestling with right now, but if Pence ... went in knowing why the aid was being held up, went in and spoke to the leader of Ukraine knowing what stick the administration had over them, and in that way was drawn in to this idea of using that stick to try to get what they wanted from Ukraine, does he then face the jeopardy of perhaps also being drawn into the questions of impeachment?"

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‘We’re not through’: After biggest climate protest in history draws 4 million worldwide, campaigners prepare for week of action

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"September 20th was a demonstration of intent, of 4 million people who took time off from work or school to say that they are ready to move on and make the changes we need."

As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world—making it the biggest climate protest ever—they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.

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