Secretary Of The Interior Ryan Zinke joined Brian Kilmeade to discuss the latest on the California wildfires and pushed back against allegations against him on improper political activity. Zinke calls the allegations “false” and said, “When you’re effective they start targeting.” Zinke continued, “The President supports me.” When asked about President Trump taking a shot at Admiral McRaven by saying it would have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner, Zinke, who is a retired Navy SEAL, stressed he likes the Admiral but added that he has said some inappropriate things about the President and it is in the President’s DNA to fight back, adding, “He’s the nicest guy in the world until attacked. But you take a swing at him and he’s going to swing back.”
Plus, Secretary Zinke addressed rumors he is preparing to resign at the end of the year and become a Fox Contributor.
BRIAN KILMEADE: Joining us now is Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. I almost said congressman. I could always say Navy Seal. But, Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us again.
RYAN ZINKE, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR: Well, great to be with you. I’m glad you’re in Orlando in the son.
KILMEADE: Hey, first off I’m – I’m excited because you and I did some great work, if I can say so myself, because you were able to bring me underneath the Lincoln Memorial. You were able to bring me up the backside of Mount Rushmore.
And those are two of the ten segments that are going to be rolling out on Fox Nation. And let me just say this, you are such a natural being you. And the stuff that you showed and you’ll be showing our viewers is just phenomenal.
ZINKE: Well I’ll tell you, I am passionate about our public lands, and certainly as the Secretary of Interior. You know, to show off our treasures. And there are a lot of hidden treasures as you know, and when you look at the Lincoln Memorial, no one really thinks about the large chamber underneath. Your segment is going to be phenomenal. And to be able to – to go up – behind Mount Rushmore and look at that majesty, it’s really quite something.
KILMEADE: Well, put it this way, one of the pictures – we could not bring the cameras, but we did take a picture of you and I sitting on George Washington’s head looking down at the nose of Jefferson and Lincoln. And that’s what we posted up now. South Dakota, one of their leading newspapers just did a feature and it’s going to be available on the 27th.
I know you can’t promote anything, but I will say this. If you like to see some of the great things in this country and maybe can’t get to this on your bucket list, this will be as close as you get. And you gave us great access. You also started this off helping us out on the Statue of Liberty.
You and I saw for the first time together, when you first took this job. So, that’s what we’ll be talking about on the 27th. But first thing’s first, the fires in California. What could – what did you take away that we didn’t get on camera?
ZINKE: Well, I’ll tell you I’ve seen a lot of devastation fires before, nothing like this. You know, in a town of about 20,000, probably 80 percent was destroyed. And the scenario was like this Brian, is that it was literally a flamethrower of embers.
And spot fires were ahead of it. You had a 50 mile an hour wind. And no one really thought that the damage would be this severe. And by the time a lot of people thought about evacuating it was too late.
You saw the pictures of people driving through flames. In one case, the fire and local firemen are in town and they had fires in the front, rear, all around. They had to go to a commercial parking lot with a building, harbor people inside the building and defend the space.
ZINKE: I mean, that’s how desperate it was. But I tell you the firemen did a great job. There could’ve been so much more loss of life. The sheriffs were out there evacuating. So the – our first responders did a – did a good job. But lesson learned and takeaway, it’s time to manage our forests. It’s just unacceptable, the amount of dead and dying timber, the density of trees.
And yes it can be managed doing prescribed burns using best science, prescribe burns late in the season, remove the dead and dying trees. Get defendable spaces. This can be done. We’re – we’re going to spend billions of dollars – billions, Brian, this year fighting forest fires, repairing damage.
And it is better to invest now and restore the health of our forests. But I’d rather spend the money on …
ZINKE: … trails, on visitor centers. As you point out, the parks. Magnificent stories, but the parks are, you know, being loved (ph) to death. I’d rather invest the money on public access, and boat ramps, and get America out there to enjoy the outdoors rather than be fearful from it.
KILMEADE: I want you to hear what the President said when he goes (ph) out there. And I think the President’s got to do more of this, going into areas that didn’t vote for him that maybe will protest against him, but they’re in trouble. And I think – I think it was great that she showed up, but here’s what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got some blowback because your – one of your tweets which (you said) …
TRUMP: Only because …
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: … there’s poor forest management.
TRUMP: … only because I tell the truth. Look, the President of Finland was with me recently. He said we are a nation living in a forest, meaning Finland. We have very combustible trees and wood. We don’t have forest fires like this. It’s got to be raked (ph).
In fact, it was very interesting. I was watching the firemen the other day and they were raking areas – they were raking areas. Where the fire was right over there, and they’re raking trees, little trees like this that are – not trees, little bushes that you could see are totally dry, weeds. And they’re raking them, they’re on fire. That should’ve been all raked out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KILMEADE: So – and he got blowback from that. And the Finnish President said, you know, we don’t rake. What do you think he’s referring to, did the President make a mistake there?
ZINKE: No, the – you look at the amount of combustible fuels on the forest floor. I mean, it is – it is unacceptable. So the term raking is just cleaning up the forest floor. And we’re doing it right now. I signed a secretary order. You look at Yosemite, gathering the dead and dying timber.
We’re doing prescribed burns late in the season. But this should’ve been done, you know, years ago. And this is not just, you know, the last administration or – or – actually, this has been years of just letting the forest go, or – or trying to harvest even a sustainable yield, and being sued in court.
So we’re asking – both, Secretary Perdue and I are asking for more authority to use best science and best practices. And cleaning up the woods isn’t clear cutting. It’s thinning the trees where you need it, restoring the health, the diversity of types of species, again, removing the dead and dying trees.
But we should have these prescribed burns late in the season rather than these hundred thousand acre fires …
ZINKE: … that devastate communities, put our firefighters at risk. We lost a lot of firefighters too. But this – this Paradise Fire, you know, the casualties could be in the hundreds. And – and you go through these neighborhoods and a lot of it can be mitigated.
But I tell you it’s better to spend the investment upfront and restore active forest management, and again, using best science and best practices. We have great foresters, let’s just get it done.
KILMEADE: Right. Mr. Secretary, I – I know one thing it seems that it seems that surely (ph) they’re getting it done. It seems you’ve been targeted a lot by different groups. Fifteen separate investigations into you, nine of which have been dispatched.
The President says he’s thinking about rotation three to five different secretaries who may do all, may do none. Where – where do you stand right now?
ZINKE: Well, first of all, they’re – they’re allegations which are fictitious, false. And – and when you’re effective they start targeting. I always say it’s better to charge up a hill under fire than cower in a foxhole. And – and what they’re trying to do is distract from the accomplishments.
And look at how much the accomplishments of this presidency has been in interior, our energy sector. We’re the largest oil – oil and gas producer on the face of the plant. And yet, our safety record also breaks records. The first time in 60 years we’re exploring natural gas. On the conservation side, we’ve opened up millions of acres to public access, increased hunting and fishing opportunity. We’ve opened up 38 wildlife refuges to hunting and fishing. We’ve established wildlife corridors and I have withdrawn mineral – withdrawn mineral rights…
ZINKE: … of – in areas that should be protected, so both on the conservation and the energy side which is my job as interior. We’ve done things, as a matter of fact Former Secretary Hodel, he was a Secretary of Interior under Reagan. His quote was, “President Trump and Zinke, they’re actually doing things we talked about doing but couldn’t get done.” And so when you do get things done you’re going to take criticism especially for those that resist or obstruct.
KILMEADE: Now what about, Congressman, what about this whole thing – excuse me, Mr. Secretary, the whole Haliburton land situation and there’s a report in “The Washington Post”…
ZINKE: That’s nuts.
KILMEADE: Tell me about it. Can you define it for us? All we get is the investigation, we don’t get your side of it.
ZINKE: This is – Brian, only the left can twist a proposed shared parking lot to increase public access to a children’s sledding hill into an elicit oil and gas land deal with big oil. There’s nothing to do with Haliburton. It’s a sledding park in Whitefish and if you go into Whitefish and look at it. What could possibly be wrong with a children’s sledding park? I have no financial interest in developments. Everyone knows that it’s an absolutely rouse but this is what – they called for allegations of me wearing my socks. As a matter of fact when you and I are at Mt. Rushmore I had a pair of socks that had the president’s face on them. That called for investigation.
But every investigation always leads to the same conclusion that I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly law. But it’s just a distraction from all the good things this president is doing. And I probably (get is), the president is probably the first ranking criticism on fake news probably in the second or third position but he fights for freedom every day.
KILMEADE: Yes, I know. Did you express that and define that to the president and said let him know your side of the story?
ZINKE: Oh absolutely. The president supports me. You know I love working with the president. He’s a business guy. If people ask me what’s it like to work for the president? I say he’s business — he follows the numbers; he’s engaged.
ZINKE: If you do your job, he’s a great boss. If you don’t do your job believe me, he’ll call at 2:00 in the morning but he’s a CEO. He likes metrics. He likes to see things get done. In this country, you know the swamp, as you start draining the swamp…
ZINKE: … the swamp it exposes the surface and they fight back. That’s exactly why the president got elected because the swamp, as you know, is not a nice place and our country deserves better.
KILMEADE: Yes I want you…
ZINKE: Our borders need to be protected.
KILMEADE: Well you’re a Congressman – before that you were serving in the military – a Navy Seal. And I just thought you were uniquely qualified to answer this rift as blown up between Admiral McRaven who’s been very critical of this president and this president. Chris Wallace brought up an old quote and here’s what the president said about Admiral McRaven who is very critical of him.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Bill McRaven, retired Admiral, Navy Seal, 37 years, former head of U.S. Special Operations…
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: … Special Operations…
TRUMP: Excuse me. Hillary Clinton fan.
WALLACE: … who led the operations, command of the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama Bin Laden says that your sentiment is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime.
TRUMP: OK, he’s a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer.
WALLACE: He was a Navy Seal.
TRUMP: It would have been nicer if we would have gotten Osama Bin Laden a lot sooner than that. Wouldn’t it have been nice?
KILMEADE: So where do you stand with this? The Admiral against the president.
ZINKE: Well the Admiral I think has said some things that are inappropriate but I – I’ve known Bill McRaven for awhile. You know I like Bill McRaven. He’s served his country and I disagreed with Senator McCain on a lot of issues too but I respected his service and so in the day I think the Admiral – you know the president’s DNA – he’s the nicest guy in the world until attacked. But you take a swing at him and he’s going to swing back. It’s in his DNA. And so when people say inappropriate, unkind remarks about the president, you know the president is going to respond.
KILMEADE: Should he have – should he have said not responded because the Admiral has been in the military so long?
ZINKE: Well I think – you know anyone that says a remark – again an inappropriate comment he’s going to come back. This is – this is what the president’s DNA is…
KILMEADE: Got you.
ZINKE: … but again he’s – he doesn’t — he doesn’t start a fight. I’ve never seen him actually start a fight but he’s willing to finish it and he strongly says what he believes. You know an people, well what about the tweets? He’s probably the most transparent president we’ve ever had because if you’re wondering what’s on the president’s mind, just follow his tweets.
KILMEADE: Got you.
ZINKE: He calls it like he sees it.
KILMEADE: And Mr. Secretary, last question. I’m already over time. How long do you expect to be Secretary of the Interior?
ZINKE: Oh, you know I enjoy the job and I – I kind of laugh at the criticism. They have me taking over your show, if you listen…
KILMEADE: Yes they have you as a “Fox News” Contributor leaving in 2018 becoming a “Fox News” contributor.
ZINKE: Well I like the best one, I think the president is going to nominate me for the commander of Space Command.
KILMEADE: That would be great.
ZINKE: That was a good one. I enjoy the job. It’s certainly work if you enjoy working with the president.
ZINKE: Interior I’m passionate about and there’s a lot more to do. I mean we have to restore and rebuild our park system. We’re in the middle of a reorganization interior to be better stewards for the next century.
KILMEADE: Got you.
ZINKE: There’s a lot of work interiors do but yes, I look forward to go on to the next park. And remember, visit our park during the holidays because we have 417 park units and every park tells a different story.
KILMEADE: Got you.
ZINKE: Our park system I think is the envy of the world. Go out and find a park today.
KILMEADE: Congressman Ryan Zinke, now Secretary Ryan Zinke, Navy Seal Ryan Zinke. Have a great Thanksgiving. Thanks so much.
ZINKE: You as well and back to your family and God bless America.