Mr. McConnell learned early this week that Mr. Trump had grown interested in Mr. Zinke to be secretary of the interior. Mr. McConnell quickly contacted both Vice President-elect Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, in an effort to head off the appointment, according to multiple Republican officials familiar with the calls.
Mr. Trump was not moved. He was so taken with Mr. Zinke during their meeting on Monday at Trump Tower that he offered him the position. Mr. Trump’s son Donald Jr. quashed a competing candidate, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, because of her support for selling off public land, a senior Republican official said.
. Mr. Trump’s defiant selection of Mr. Zinke, 55, dismayed Republicans in the capital and raised suspicions about how reliable an ally he will be for the party. Even as Mr. Trump has installed party stalwarts in a few cabinet departments, he has repeatedly shrugged off the requests of Republicans who have asked for help reinforcing their power in Congress.Trump's camp had earlier floated the name of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the House GOP Conference.
With just one appointment, Mr. Trump snubbed the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House, Ms. McMorris Rodgers, imperiled the party’s chances in a key Senate race and likely triggered a special election for Mr. Zinke’s House seat.
...But Donald J. Trump has never been a party guy. In June, as CNN reported, he made his attitude clear:
House and Senate Republicans had little warning about the decision to select Mr. Zinke and pass over Ms. McMorris Rodgers. Indeed, some House Republican leadership aides believed that Ms. McMorris Rodgers already had the job in hand.
Donald Trump slammed GOP leaders on Wednesday for not lining up behind him, implying that he's willing to go forward without their help.
"We have to have our Republicans either stick together or let me just do it by myself. I'll do very well. I'm going to do very well. OK? I'm going to do very well. A lot of people thought I should do that anyway, but I'll just do it very nicely by myself," Trump said, though he did not elaborate on what doing it "by myself" would mean.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee also accused his party's leaders of being weak and told them to "please be quiet."