- Former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who just left his post, is now being investigated for potentially lying to his agency’s inspector general.
- Zinke, who resigned in December and left on Wednesday, was facing two inspector general inquiries when he left – one looking into his real estate dealings in Montana and one into his involvement in a proposed casino project by Native American tribes in Connecticut.
- According to the Washington Post, inspector general investigators have come to believe that the former secretary lied to them. They have now alerted the Justice Department.
Ryan Zinke just left the Trump administration, but he’s already being accused of potentially lying to investigators.
Zinke, who served as Secretary of the Interior for two years before leaving on Wednesday, was facing two inspector general inquiries, one into his real estate dealing in Montana (his home state), and one into his involvement in a proposed casino project by Native American tribes in Connecticut. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that investigators in both cases seem to believe Zinke lied to them, prompting them to alert the Justice Department to consider whether the former secretary violated any laws.
According to the Post, the department’s public integrity section is now exploring the case. The inspector general has already interviewed witnesses in an attempt to scrutinize Zinke’s testimony. A spokesman for Zinke told the Post that the former secretary voluntarily participated in two interviews with the inspector general about the tribal matter in Connecticut, saying that “to the best of his knowledge … [Zinke] answered all questions truthfully.”
In his farewell letter to staff, Zinke made no mention of the ethics allegations.
The Post reported Zinke was pressured to step down due to probes into his conduct and his tense relationship with Trump. Zinke reportedly lost Trump’s favour after not running against Montana Senator John Tester in last year’s election. The former secretary also did not consult the White House when he and then-Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida would be exempted from offshore drilling.
According to the Post, it is not clear what Zinke allegedly lied about but sources said it wasn’t about a land deal he struck with the chairman of the oil company Halliburton in Montana.
The tribal matter in which Zinke appears to have become entangled involves a feud over the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes’ attempt to jointly operate a casino in Connecticut. This sparked what the Post referred to as “intense lobbying,” since the new facility would affect the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in gaming revenue. According to the Post, the tribes allege that Zinke did not grant their application due to political pressures.
The tribes were planning on opening the commercial casino on land off of their reservations after reaching an agreement with the state, according to the Post. MGM Resorts International objected to the casino since it would compete with its gaming complex in Springfield, Massachussetts, and would hurt its plants to open a casino in Connecticut. The Post reported Interior officials were planning on approving the tribes’ plan last summer but later changed their minds. The Mashantucket Pequot tribe sued and has continued pressing its case, according to the Post.
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