Horse News

Zinke Takes Mysterious Turkish Vacation While West Burns

Source: Western Values Project

Secretary Zinke’s Turkish escape comes after he toured the extensive damage from the wildfires ravaging the Western United States, while blaming “radical environmentalists” for the ferocity of the fires, even going as far as calling groups “terrorists.”

Last Friday night, Secretary Zinke was spotted in the Turkish Airlines lounge at Dulles International Airport, and later boarded a flight to Istanbul. According to a Politico source, Secretary Zinke is on personal travel, but the Department of Interior has refused to comment on his whereabouts. It is unknown if he has traveled to any other country at this time. The trip comes a year after Zinke and his wife took a security detail on their two-week vacation to Greece and Turkey. The cost of the taxpayer-funded security detail is still unknown and being withheld by Interior.

On August 1, 2018, President Trump put US sanctions on Turkey, and on August 4 Turkey’s President asked authorities to freeze the assets in Turkey of the U.S. ministers of “justice and interior.”  While it was unclear if the Turkish President was referring specifically to Secretary Zinke, it is clear that both Ryan and Lola Zinke have connections to Turkish officials.

Secretary Zinke’s Turkish escape comes after he toured the extensive damage from the wildfires ravaging the Western United States, while blaming “radical environmentalists” for the ferocity of the fires, even going as far as calling groups “terrorists.” Although Secretary Zinke spouted a lot of hot rhetoric on wildfires he hasn’t joined in offering any solutions — last week, other government officials, including Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, announced their plan for reducing 80 million acres of hazardous fuels on forest service lands. It’s uncharacteristic for Zinke to miss any opportunity to grandstand on wildfires, and he has failed to suggest any action to address the situation.

The Howe Ridge Wildfire is raging through Zinke’s own backyard in Glacier National Park. It has caused evacuations and closures in the park, and at last count has exploded to cover 9,672 acres. The fire has also destroyed historic buildings along Lake MacDonald. Secretary Zinke has yet to visit the fire or to even make mention of this devastating fire that wreaking havoc on his home state.

Glacier Park Fire

Howe Ridge Wildfire in Glacier National Park

The Interior Department also recently backpedaled on a controversial land sell-off proposal, in direct contrast to Secretary Zinke’s promise he would never sell or transfer public lands to private interests. Secretary Zinke inexplicably claimed he had never seen the proposal before it was released.

So, with all this happening at home, why would Ryan Zinke seemingly choose to go to Turkey, a country that his boss, Donald Trump, recently sanctioned? We’re not sure, but here are some interesting facts we dug up about Zinke’s ties to Turkey:

  • Earlier this year, Ryan Zinke spoke at the American Friends of Turkey award ceremony, where his wife, Lola, received a “society” award from a Turkish-American Business Magazine.

The May 2018 event was sponsored by Turkish Philanthropy Funds and Turkish Airlines. Ryan Zinke also attended the first Hollywood Turkish Film Festival in October 2017, which was also sponsored by Turkish Airlines.

  • Ryan Zinke has taken campaign contributions from former Michael Flynn associate Bijan Kian, who is currently being investigated in the Mueller probe in relation to his role in bringing in Flynn’s Turkish lobbying clients.  

When he was in Congress, in 2016, Zinke received a campaign contribution from Bijan Kian, a former associate Michael Flynn’s who is currently being investigated in the Mueller probe. When Zinke received the contribution, Kian was leading most of Flynn Intel Group’s lobbying for Inovo, the pro-Turkish government firm that Flynn later admitted to failing to register as a foreign agent.

Kian’s contribution to Zinke for Congress is only mentioned in the Flynn Intel Group Inc.’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) paperwork; there is no record of the contribution in any other campaign contributions database. Rafiekian also served with Zinke’s wife, Lola, on the Donald Trump transition team.

  • Ryan Zinke has also taken campaign contributions from, and is friends with, executives at Mercury Public Affairs LLC, which has lobbied extensively for Turkish interests.

Lobbying firm Mercury Public Affairs LLC has represented the Republic of Turkey. Mercury’s Co-Chair is former Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, a Montana political player and a personal friend of Ryan Zinke’s. Not only did Rehberg attend Zinke’s July 4th bash last summer, but in September 2016 Rehberg gave Zinke $2,000 in campaign contributions — the same time his firm was lobbying for Turkey.

Another partner at Mercury, Michael McSherry, also donated to Zinke’s campaign in 2016.  McSherry lobbied for the Turkish Institute for Progress, which was set up by Ekim Alptekin, the Turkish businessman who hired Flynn to lobby for Turkish interests shortly before the election.

Mercury is now representing the Turkey-U.S. Business Trade Council, a trade group that promotes business ties between the two countries. The council’s former chairman is also Ekim Alptekin.

  • When Zinke was a Congressman, lobbying firm LB International Solutions LLC had a meeting with Zinke on “US Turkish Relations” on behalf of the Embassy of Turkey.

The meeting took place on July 29, 2015. The president of LB International Solutions LLC, Lydia Borland, is on the TOA board that awarded Lola Zinke her “society” award in 2018.

  • The Zinkes have a personal friendship with a woman named Sevil Altinsoy, who works for Turkish Airlines.

At Lola Zinke’s behest, Sevil Altinsoy, a Corporate Agreements and Marketing Manager for Turkish Airlines, was invited to the Interior 4th of July Party in 2017 and also went boating with the Zinkes on their August 2017 romantic getaway.

  • And let’s not forget about the taxpayer funded security detail that Secretary Zinke took on his vacation last year.

A similar overseas trip by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt cost taxpayers an estimated $120,000.

With wildfires raging across the West, including in Zinke’s most cherished park, Glacier, the timing of this vacation seems odd to say the least. Add his close ties with Turkish officials, his ties to a lobbying firm who lobbies for Turkish interests, donations from a former Michael Flynn associate who is under investigation, recent sanctions imposed by President Trump, and the order by the Turkish President to freeze Zinke’s potential foreign assets, one can only imagine why Zinke decided to skip town so quickly and quietly.

17 replies »

  1. Maybe he is in Turkey to make a deal with them to take a few hundred horses off his hands. Who can trust this guy and what was he like as a Congressman? Did he do the same at that time with the WY. horses?


  2. WHY is the Secretary of Interior being sent to Turkey rather than Pompeo, Secretary of State?

    Turkey to freeze assets of ‘US justice, interior ministers’ says Erdogan

    On Wednesday, Washington moved to block the assets of Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu in the United States and prohibit US citizens from “engaging in transactions with them”.
    Turkey’s foreign ministry in response said it would retaliate against Washington’s decision, calling it a “hostile stance”. It urged US President Donald Trump to reconsider the sanctions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. U.S. Secretary of the Interior on secretive trip to Turkey
    Aug 24 2018

    Other close friends of Ryan and Lola Zinke include Sevil Altınsoy, a Turkish Airlines manager who joined the couple on a Bosphorus boat trip during their 2017 taxpayer-funded romantic getaway.

    “Add his close ties with Turkish officials, his ties to a lobbying firm who lobbies for Turkish interests, donations from a former Michael Flynn associate who is under investigation, recent sanctions imposed by President Trump, and the order by the Turkish President to freeze Zinke’s potential foreign assets, one can only imagine why Zinke decided to skip town so quickly and quietly,” the Western Values Project report said.


    • I looked up the definition for “Crooked”: dishonest, unscrupulous, unprincipled, untrustworthy, corrupt, corruptible, venal; criminal, illegal, unlawful, nefarious, fraudulent.


  4. Perhaps he decided that it would be a good time to be out of the country:

    Zinke said he would never sell public land. But the Interior is considering it.
    Giant land sale?
    1,600 acres once part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument may be sold under new plan

    By Darryl Fears Reporter
    Dino Grandoni Reporter
    August 16

    The Trump administration is proposing to dispose of federal land in Utah that was protected within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument until its boundary was redrawn by the Interior Department earlier this year – despite Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s assurance last year that he would not sell public lands.
    In a statement to The Washington Post on Thursday, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said “the secretary still opposes the sale or transfer of federal land.” Swift said the bureau is legally required to identify federal property suitable for disposal in its land-use planning.

    Opponents disputed the legal requirement. Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, federal land should be retained unless disposing it is in the national interest, said Nada Culver, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society, a nonprofit group.

    Federal officials only identify land when they actually want to dispose of it, not keep it, Culver said. “That’s the important difference here.”

    Swift said no decision will be made until a 60-day comment period ends sometime in October and after the comments have been reviewed.



    Q. Are you aware of how your critics perceive you, and why do you think you’re perceived that way?

    A. “There’s a lot of angry people out there, and quite frankly, they don’t want to look at truth, and it’s just a series of attacks without merit. At the heart of it, you do right, and you fear no one. I’m passionate about public lands. I’m passionate about NEVER SELLING THEM, NEVER TRANSFERRING IT, but we have to manage it, and there has been a consequence I believe of almost environmental terrorism, where we’re limiting access, shutting down roads, not having the ability to remove dead, dying trees. It comes at a cost.”

    Listen to the complete answer: 11:13-15:20

    Q. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah have recently been shrunk in size by the federal government. Do you think they are just as special as that place you described in Montana?

    A. “… The revised boundaries are still larger than Zion and Bryce Canyon combined. There was NOT ONE SQUARE INCHE OF FEDERAL LAND THAT WAS REMOVED FROM ANY PROTECTION. The difference is this: Utah matters. So when every member of the Utah delegation, every member, is against that monument. The governor is against the monument.”

    Listen to the complete answer: 18:17-21:41


      • Yes, when budgets are being slashed everywhere, and especially for public lands management (fires, maintenance, public access — park fees being raised —, staff transfers to areas out of their skill and knowledge sets, and all those unfilled agency leadership positions.

        One also has to wonder what the criteria were to get on the Utah delegation, perhaps being related to the Bundys?

        (sorry about the typo above, it should read INCH).



    Words Matter

    So tell us, Secretary Zinke, what part of taking public policy disputes to a court of law is construed as “terrorism” in your mind? And if you can’t, maybe you’d best rethink your rash and totally baseless accusations before someone, believing your false words, decides to hurt someone.

    And finally, there’s Montana’s lone congressman, Greg Gianforte. That he went to Congress with absolutely no experience in lawmaking was on full display last week when some conservation groups asked him to hold public hearings on his bills to destroy Montana’s existing Wilderness Study Areas.

    Gianforte’s response was to tell those organizations he’d think about having public input after the bills had passed. If this sounds totally inane there’s a good reason – it is. Anyone with any experience with lawmaking knows every word counts. The simplest example is the difference between the words “may” and “shall”; the former meaning you have a choice to do something and the latter meaning it’s mandatory. There’s every reason for Gianforte’s constituents, who are all Montanans by the way, to seek input and oversight on drafting the language of the laws that affect our quality of life – and no good reason for him to deny that.

    As Thomas Jefferson sagely wrote in 1787: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

    That’s advice Trump, Zinke and Gianforte should heed as every day fewer citizens are finding their threatening words and divisive “governance” acceptable.

    George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.


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