Trump Picks Montana’s Zinke to Lead Interior

By TIM RYAN

WASHINGTON (CN) – President-elect Donald Trump has selected Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke to lead the Department of the Interior, Politico reported Tuesday.

The report, which has not been confirmed by the Trump transition office, comes just days after The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Mother Jones and other media outlets reported that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, a Washington Republican, had gotten the nod.

Both Zinke and McMorris Rogers met with the president-elect on Monday.

Zinke, a former Navy SEAL and state lawmaker, was an early Trump supporter in a Congress that mostly attempted to keep the then-candidate at arm’s length.

Zinke says on his House of Representatives webpage it “is of utmost importance that we preserve the public’s access to [public] lands,” and resigned his position as a delegate to the Republican National Convention because he disagreed with the party’s position on federal public lands, according to The Billings (Montana) Gazette.

But while Zinke is not in favor of handing states control of federally owned land, he has opposed Obama administration regulations on them during his single term in office.

“Clean air and clean water are absolute top priorities when we talk about responsible energy development, however, the final rule issued by the Obama administration does nothing to further protect our resources,” Zinke said in a statement against a Bureau of Land Management rule that would regulate methane gas emissions that occur when companies drill for oil and gas. “Instead, the BLM has issued a duplicative and unnecessary rule against responsible oil and gas development in Montana and on sovereign tribal lands.”

This mix has resulted in the League of Conservation Voters giving Zinke a 3 percent rating on its environmental scorecard, a mark well below average.

After his meeting with Trump on Monday, Zinke told the Gazette afterwards he had a “very positive meeting” with the president-elect.

“Congressman Zinke is a strong advocate for American energy independence and he supports an all-encompassing energy policy that includes renewables, fossil fuels and alternative energy,” Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller said on a conference call Monday.

Zinke’s pick comes as something of a surprise as last week multiple news outlets reported Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers as Trump’s pick for secretary of the interior.

In other presidential transition news, Trump announced late Tuesday that  his top policy advisor from the campaign will follow him to the White House.

Stephen Miller, who currently works as policy director for Trump’s transition team, will take the title of senior advisor to the president for policy when Trump takes office in January, Trump announced Tuesday. Miller has worked on Trump’s campaign as a policy advisor and a chief speechwriter since January.

“Stephen played a central and wide-ranging role in our primary and general election campaign,” Trump said in a statement. “He is deeply committed to the America First agenda and understands the policies and actions necessary to put that agenda into effect. He is a strong advocate for protecting American workers and will fulfill a crucial role in my administration as my senior advisor on matters of policy.”

In the White House Miller will be in charge of Trump’s policy staff as well as building support for his agenda, according to a press release from the transition team.

Miller previously spent time on Capitol Hill, where he worked for insurgent Republicans from former Republican primary candidate Rep. Michelle Bachman to Alabama Senator and Trump attorney general pick Jeff Sessions.

A lengthy profile of Miller in Politico from June credits Miller with helping to kill a bipartisan immigration reform bill in 2014 while he worked in Sessions’ office.

Miller was a fixture on the campaign trail, whipping up crowds at Trump rallies into a frenzy of anti-establishment fervor before the candidate took the stage.