Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied about why he exempted Florida from offshore drilling, and he got called out for it.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke tried to lie about his politicized decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling, but Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) forced him to admit the truth.
At a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing Thursday morning, Van Hollen was trying to secure the same treatment for his state that Florida got from the administration in January: an exemption from offshore oil and gas drilling.
"Florida has a moratorium in place, just a little different," Zinke said.
"Mr. Secretary, you know that that moratorium is not on the Atlantic coast," Van Hollen interrupted. "You know that moratorium is on the Gulf Coast."
Van Hollen then reminded the secretary of his own prior testimony just days earlier than he granted the exemption because Florida's entire delegation, as well as its governor, asked for it.
"Those conditions apply to Maryland," Van Hollen said.
"And — and a moratorium, which is off the coast of Florida, which would not allow the drilling of oil and gas," Zinke said.
"Off the Gulf Coast, not the Atlantic coast," Van Hollen pointed out.
"Off the Gulf Coast, right," Zinke conceded.
Zinke went on to say he would not grant Van Hollen's request, but that wasn't the point anyway.
Van Hollen was exposing the corrupt nature of Zinke's January announcement, which was later revealed to be part of a plot to boost the political chances of Gov. Rick Scott, who is now running for the U.S. Senate.
The Florida exemption was the only one granted shortly after Trump opened the entire Atlantic coast for drilling, and had the convenient effect of protecting the ocean views that his Mar-a-Lago club brags about on its website.
Zinke has been involved in several of the roiling Trump Cabinet scandals, but his treatment of natural treasures as political favors may be the worst of all of them.