Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke may edge out Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Raul Labrador as Trump’s pick for Interior secretary

December 14, 2016 GMT

The job of Interior secretary in the Trump Administration was reportedly offered to a Republican member of Congress from the Northwest Tuesday. But not Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Ryan Zinke, Montana’s sole member of the House of Representatives, was offered the job, different news media outlets reported, citing unnamed sources.

There was no official confirmation from the Trump Transition Team, which Tuesday announced Exxon chief executive officer Rex Tillerson as the pick for secretary of State and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the president-elect’s choice for Energy secretary.

But McMorris Rodgers seemed to concede that she was not expecting to be nominated to the Interior job with a post on her Facebook site that said it was “an honor to spend time with the president-elect and I’m energized more than ever to continue leading in Congress” – something she’d give up if she became a member of the Trump cabinet.


House Speaker Paul Ryan wrote on Twitter “we are lucky to have her in the House.”

Many newspapers reported on Friday that McMorris Rodgers likely would be selected for Interior secretary, always quoting unnamed sources. But no formal announcement was made.

She met with President-elect Donald Trump in late November and again on Monday, several days after anonymous sources from the transition team floated her name. Those reports set off a round of speculation among Spokane politicians, with at least four – three Republicans and a Democrat – announcing plans to run for the seat if it became open.

One of those would-be replacements, state Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, complimented McMorris Rodgers and wrote “Country’s loss is E. Wash gain” on his Twitter page.

During the speculation, neither McMorris Rodgers nor her staff would comment on the record about the prospects of her being offered or accepting the Interior nomination. A source familiar with her conversations with Trump said that while the brief talks included a mention of Interior, she never received an offer and did not receive any advance warning either before her name was mentioned to reporters last week or before Tuesday’s reports regarding Zinke.

Early Tuesday morning, Politico reported Trump was considering Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador, who represents the North Idaho congressional district immediately to the east of McMorris Rodgers’ district, as well as Zinke of Montana. But the political news organization said the Eastern Washington Republican was still considered the front-runner.

Late in the afternoon, Politico quoted unnamed sources to say Trump had offered the job to Zinke, but the freshman congressman and former Navy Seal commander hadn’t said whether he’d take it. The Washington Post also reported Trump had selected Zinke for the post, based on information from an unnamed source.

There was no official confirmation from the Trump transition team or Zinke.

Labrador met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York on Monday, and hinted afterward to reporters that they’d discussed a role for him in the new Trump administration. He could not be reached for comment about the meeting.