Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke likes the members of his security detail so much that he took them on a romantic getaway last year.
Zinke and his wife, Lola, took a trip to Turkey and the Greek isles last August -- strictly pleasure, as Zinke took no business meetings during the trip. Still, the Department of the Interior sent along U.S. Parks Police officers to make sure the secretary stayed safe, according to official documents and emails first obtained by Politico.
The travel costs for members of the security detail were not made public. Most Cabinet secretaries don’t bring security along with them on their personal vacations.
The unusual expenses coming out of Zinke’s Department of the Interior have been adding up: Three helicopter rides he took last summer racked up $53,000 in costs for the department, and he’s spending $138,670 on three sets of double doors for his office.
Zinke is far from the only Cabinet member to spend taxpayer dollars on travel for his security detail on international trips. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt came under fire Tuesday for taking his security detail with him to Rome.
Interior spokesperson Heather Swift justified the move to Politico by citing “five terrorist attacks in Istanbul where the secretary traveled,” and the fact that Zinke’s position puts him in the line of presidential succession.
“The United States Secretary of the Interior is in the line of presidential succession and has access to sensitive and classified information, which makes his protection a matter of national security,” Swift said in a statement to VICE News.
Swift also said members of Zinke’s security detail had provided security to past secretaries, including Sally Jewell, who served as Interior Secretary under President Barack Obama. But Kate Kelly, who served as senior adviser to Jewell and is now director of the public lands program at the Center for American Progress, told Politico that Jewell did not travel with a security detail.
No word on why Zinke decided to vacation in a place that put him at risk in the first place.
Past Cabinet officials have come under similar scrutiny. In 1994, the Government Accountability Office reviewed the security provided for Cabinet members, and found that two officials had received security while on personal business on five occasions over the course of three years, between 1991 and 1994.
It does look like the Zinke’s had a good time, at least according to photos posted to Lola Zinke’s Twitter account:
Cover image: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee March 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)