Zinke, who said he maintains a friendship with Trump, announced his run for Montana’s second House seat in May after filing paperwork to organize a campaign committee. The seat was awarded based on the state’s population growth compared to other states in the latest U.S. census results.
In a statement on July 8, the former president praised Zinke’s leadership at the Department of the Interior under his administration.
“Under Ryan Zinke’s leadership at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. achieved Energy Dominance, increased federal energy revenues, and responsibly opened federal acreage for energy production. He was instrumental in expanding public access to public lands for recreation and rebuilding our National Parks and Forests infrastructure,” Trump said.
Zinke is a former U.S. Navy Seal and was Montana’s lone U.S. House member from 2015 to 2017. After joining Trump’s Cabinet, he loosened environmental restrictions on oil and gas development and mining, while also promoting the creation of wildlife migration corridors and opposing mines near Yellowstone National Park.
“As Montana’s Congressman for the new 2nd District, Ryan will fight against the Radical Left Democrats who continually block the America First policies we put in place,” Trump said. “He will be a strong leader for the great Patriots of Montana. Ryan has my Complete and Total Endorsement for Congress!”
The election is slated for November 2022, but the voting district’s boundaries have not been set.
In an interview with Insider late May, Zinke said that Trump offered to endorse him for the state’s new House seat.
“He said, ‘Run and I’ll endorse you,'” Zinke, a Republican, told the outlet at the time. “I’ve always got along with the president.”
Zinke’s last months at the Interior were marked by increasing numbers of investigations into his conduct. Some of the investigations concluded with no findings of wrongdoing, but others remain unresolved. He said Friday there was “never any substance” to allegations he misused the office.
The Interior Department inspector general in 2018 found Zinke violated travel policies when he took his wife Lola in government vehicles. In 2019, the Office of Special Counsel said he violated a ban on federal employees engaging in political activity when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing socks with Trump’s campaign slogan.
Investigations not publicly resolved include a probe of his decision to reject a casino sought by two tribes in Connecticut and a land deal involving the chairman of an energy company that did business with the Interior when Zinke was there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.