Rep. Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump's pick for secretary of the interior, committed travel fraud when he was a member of the Navy SEAL Team 6, according to three former unit leaders and a military consultant, The Intercept reports.
While a member of the elite unit, Zinke, a Republican from Monatana, traveled numerous times to the state in 1998 and 1999 to renovate his home, the website reports. But according to The Intercept, its sources say Zinke claimed the travel was for official duties.
And, it noted, he turned in travel vouchers and was later compensated for the costs.
An investigation by two SEAL officers revealed a years-long "pattern of travel fraud," The Intercept reports. After being confronted about the trips, Zinke acknowledged the time was spent repairing and restoring a home in Whitefish, Montana and visiting his mother, two retired SEAL Team 6 leaders claim, according to The Intercept.
However, even after being caught and warned, Zinke still traveled to Montana and turned in expenses to the Navy, the website adds.
He was never punished even though he could have been referred for criminal charges or have been the focus of a non-judicial proceeding that might have led to his censure.
Despite not be subjected to any formal punishment, the website claimed Zinke was told he would not be allowed to return to the elite unit for future assignments. He was later promoted to Navy commander and retired in 2008.
The Intercept reports that a former SEAL Team 6 leader claimed the officer who documented Zinke's conduct was livid that he was not punished. But the website reports three sources maintained the lack of punishment was part of SEAL Team 6 tradition of avoiding scandal.
Zinke was elected to Congress in 2014.
When Trump announced Zinke was his pick to head the Interior Department, the president-elected noted: "As a former Navy SEAL, he has incredible leadership skills and an attitude of doing whatever it takes to win."
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