Ryan Zinke quit the Trump administration amid scandal — now he’s seeking a comeback: report
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (National Parks Service photo)

The career arc of Ryan Zinke continues to chart a fascinating course.

After retiring as a Navy SEAL, Zinke represented the town of Whitefish as a moderate Republican in the Montana legislature. After losing a 2012 bid to be lieutenant governor, Zinke ran hard to the right and successfully won Montana's statewide congressional seat in 2014.

His new far-right perspective caught the eye of Donald Trump, who appointed Zinke Secretary of the Interior. But his time in the Trump administration was plagued by scandal.

"Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke submitted his resignation to the White House on Saturday, facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct in office," The Washington Post reported in December of 2018.

"President Trump announced Zinke's exit via Twitter on Saturday morning and praised the departing Interior chief," the newspaper noted. "Behind the scenes, however, the White House had been pushing Zinke for weeks to resign, administration officials said. Last month, the officials said, Zinke was told he had until the end of the year to leave or be fired."

"For Zinke, the key moment in his loss of support at the White House came in October, when Interior's inspector general referred one of its inquiries to the Justice Department, according to two senior administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter," The Post reported. "That probe, which continues, is examining whether a land deal Zinke struck with the chairman of oil services giant Halliburton in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., constituted a conflict of interest."

The U.S. Census Bureau now says Montana has enough people to have two congressional seats, which it has not had since the 1990 Census. The state's independent redistricting commission is expected to create a western seat, the first district, and a prairie seat, the second district.

Zinke has filed documents with the FEC to mount a comeback in 2022. Interestingly, he is not planning to run in the first district, which includes Whitefish, but far away in the eastern seat.

Incumbent at-large Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) is also expected to run in the eastern, second district. This would set up a GOP primary between a former congressman and a sitting member of Congress.