Reports: Trump to chose Rep. Zinke as Interior secretary

U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) arrives for a meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump chose first-term Republican Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, a former Navy SEAL commander, as his interior secretary, according to media reports.

Zinke, 55, has yet to accept the offer and has given no indication as to which way he is leaning, Politico reported, citing two transition officials and someone familiar with the offer.

The Washington Post, citing an individual with first-hand knowledge of the decision, also reported that Zinke had been tapped to lead the Interior Department.

A Trump aide told Reuters last week that Republican Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington had been picked for the post.

Politico reported earlier on Tuesday that Trump had expanded his search to include Zinke and U.S. Republican Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho as well as McMorris Rodgers.

Zinke was an early Trump supporter, backing the New York City real estate mogul in May.

“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 spokesman Jason Miller said ahead of a meeting on Monday between Zinke and Trump at Trump Tower.

Zinke, a member of the House of Representatives subcommittee on natural resources, has voted for legislation that would weaken environmental safeguards on public land.

But unlike other candidates who were shortlisted for the interior secretary position, he opposes the transfer of public lands to the states, which is the official policy of the new Republican Party platform.

Over 30 percent of Montana is comprised of public land, according to the Montana Wilderness Association.

In July, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention because of the party platform position.

“What I saw was a platform that was more divisive than uniting,” Zinke told the Billings Gazette. “At this point, I think it’s better to show leadership.”

The League of Conservation Voters, which ranks lawmakers on their environmental record, gave Zinke an extremely low lifetime score of 3 percent.