Over the past two months, Ryan Zinke has ridden horses, shoveled snow off the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and tweeted photo after photo of the knick-knacks in his office. But his day-to-day working life as the new Secretary of the Interior has remained a riddle.
Last week Politico released the first two months of Zinke's official calendar, and the glimpse they offer into his early days in Trump's cabinet isn't exactly inspiring.
We now know that Zinke's supporting cast includes communications director Megan Bloomgren, a former Energy Department spokesperson, and Scott Hommel, the one-time treasurer of Zinke's super PAC who became his chief of staff in 2015. And we know Zinke has spent a fair amount of time chatting with Fox News and Breitbart News. He had a half-hour call with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in late March between numerous meetings with energy industry leaders (think Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil).
But the item that really jumps off the calendar is an April 12 video call with two men Gizmodo artfully referred to as "America's own shitlords": Palmer Luckey and Charles C. Johnson. The topic? "Border wall building plans," according to Zinke's schedule.
If their names don't ring a bell, Johnson is a notorious internet troll who was banned from Twitter for calling on his followers to "take out" a Black Lives Matter activist. He runs the Trump-obsessed Gotnews.com and Wesearchr.com, a crowdfunded dirt-digging website where users are currently trying to raise $150,000 to defend neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin in a lawsuit stemming from his Whitefish "troll storm."
Luckey, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old entrepreneur/Reddit user who invented the Oculus Rift virtual reality technology. He also contributed to a political action committee that produced anti-Clinton memes during the campaign and gave $100,000 to Trump's inauguration.
Zinke's spokesperson distanced the secretary from the two men this week, explaining to Gizmodo that the meeting was arranged by author Scott McEwen, who co-wrote Zinke's memoir, American Commander. Zinke's spokeswoman said he wasn't aware of Johnson's track record, and explained that Zinke directed the men to the Department of Homeland Security, where their interest in border wall technology would be more appropriately heard.
So was the call with Zinke an amateurish misstep by the secretary, or something sinister?
Asked about that, Johnson wrote to the Indy just this: "It's fake news."