The Trump White House has predictably been a magnet for the sort of career grifters who are either vastly unqualified for their jobs, or, in a few instances, inflated or misrepresented their resumés. Now, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the latest cabinet member to come under scrutiny for his experience, or lack thereof. In his case, the Trump staffer responsible for the 70,000-employee agency tasked with managing the conservation of national land and natural resources often touts his experience as a geologist when defending or explaining policy decisions. The only problem is that Zinke never worked as a geologist in any professional capacity, but according to CNN, that never stopped him from referring to himself as a geologist over 40 times while on the record, including instances when he was under oath in front of Congress. From CNN:
He uses it as a credential booster, saying things such as, “I can tell you, from a geologist, offshore mining of sand is enormously destructive environmentally, as in comparison to seismic,” as he told the House Natural Resources Committee last month.
And, “Florida is different in the currents — I’m a geologist — it’s different in geology,” in an interview with Breitbart News, defending his decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling.
He also uses it while discussing coal revenue, seismic activity, climate change, national monuments, precious metals, endangered species, fracking and drilling.
In May, he criticized the work of the US Geological Survey, saying at a press conference in Alaska that “I think the assessments of the USGS has done previous, I think they fall short, from a geologist’s point of view.”
Zinke did obtain a Geology B.S. degree from the University of Oregon in 1984. From there, he became a Navy SEAL and served for 23 years before moving on to careers in business and government. At no time did he work as a geologist nor did a spokesperson from the Office of the Interior answer CNN’s question regarding whether he was a member of the American Institute of Professional Geologists or the Association of State Boards of Geologists.
“Ryan Zinke graduated with honors with a B.S. in Geology. His intended career path was underwater geology – and he had college jobs to support that career,” Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said in a statement. “Upon graduation he was recruited to be an officer in the US Navy SEALs where he proudly served for 23 years and retired with the rank of Commander.”
Zinke is far from the first Trump appointee called upon to defend his credentials. In January, 24-year-old Trump campaign official Taylor Weyeneth stepped down from a senior position in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after it was discovered that he made misleading claims about his education and work experience on his resume. Former Special Assistant to the President, self-described counter-terrorism expert, and frequent Fox News talking head Sebastian Gorka’s PhD from Corvinus University of Budapest and his insistence on referring to himself as an authority on terrorism raised eyebrows from members of the U.S. Intelligence community.
Gorka was just one of many who bluffed their way into the White House despite not having the qualifications to back it up. The president’s son-in-law/senior adviser Jared Kushner was tasked with a massive portfolio, including handling the opioid crisis and bringing peace to the Middle East despite that the sum of his professional achievements entailed running the family real estate business. Steve Bannon briefly enjoyed a spot on the National Security Council despite his qualifications consisting of stints as a former Goldman Sachs banker, failed filmmaker, and head of a right wing website. Perhaps one of the more glaring examples of President Trump appointing unqualified aides is the appointment of former Texas governor and Dancing with the Stars loser Rick Perry as secretary of energy, a position that requires overseeing the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Zinke is right at home.