The Interior Department abruptly discontinued disclosing Secretary Ryan Zinke’s calendar on the day he boarded a flight to Turkey, where he maintains close ties to people representing Turkish interests.
It is unclear what Zinke’s schedule was while in Istanbul because the department did not release the secretary’s schedule between Aug. 17 and Sept. 1.
Earlier this year, the Interior Department was criticized for secrecy surrounding Zinke’s schedule, prompting it to pledge in early August it would release his calendar every week. That practice lasted all of three weeks.
On Monday, the department posted Zinke’s events from Sept. 1 to 7, with no indication of what happened between the last release in mid-August.
Zinke, a former congressman from Montana, has already attracted multiple federal investigations — at least 11, according to Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. — and his trip to Turkey raises more questions about why the secretary has been opaque about his itinerary.
The Western Values Project last month reported that Zinke took campaign cash from Bijan Kian, a lobbyist for Turkish clients and former business partner of Michael Flynn, who is himself under investigation for unregistered lobbying that could have benefited the Turkish government.
Zinke also received $2,000 in 2016 from former Rep. Denny Rehberg, whose firm was representing Turkish interests at the time. In 2015, Zinke also met with a lobbyist on “US Turkish relations.”
Zinke and his wife, Lola, traveled to Turkey last August, too. In May, the couple attended the “Friends of Turkey” awards ceremony hosted by a Turkish-American magazine, where Lola was among the winners for her contributions to society.
Zinke told a reporter at the event that they travel to Turkey every year.
In early August, the Interior Department posted Zinke’s schedule from the previous week.
The department was “always looking for ways to increase transparency and communication with the press and the public,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told The Hill at the time. “Posting to the website what the secretary did that week accomplishes both of those goals.”
But on Aug. 17, the last event listed was “Live interview with Lou Dobbs on Fox Business.” The trip to Turkey wasn’t mentioned.