An internal watchdog inside the Department of Interior reported Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s behavior to the Justice Department. The investigation will determine if Zinke “used his office to help himself,” a senior White House official said and The Washington Post reported.
There are currently three open ethics investigations surrounding Zinke’s behavior while in office.
“The evidence is mounting that Ryan Zinke has criminally abused his power to exploit taxpayer funds in order to afford the lavish lifestyle he desires while working to enrich his friends in the fossil fuel industry,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director, said. “Now, the chickens are coming home to roost. Ryan Zinke has done his best to emulate Scott Pruitt, now it’s time he finishes the impersonation and resigns.”
According to EcoWatch, the three criminal investigations include:
- Grand Staircase Escalante: When Zinke redrew the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, he drew them around a piece of land belonging to a state lawmaker, prompting concerns that he was trading public lands for political favors.
- Halliburton Deal: Zinke has met with Halliburton Chair David Lesar while in office and discussed a Montana real estate development owned by Lesar’s son that might include a brewery that the Zinke’s would run and could increase the value of land nearby owned by the Zinke’s foundation. The DOI is involved with regulating Halliburton.
- Connecticut Casino Controversy: Connecticut lawmakers asked for an investigation into Zinke’s handling of a potential Native American casino project. He met with lobbyists opposed to the project, but refused to meet with proponents and may have given false information to the tribes involved.
But Zinke refuted the claims and Justice Department’s investigation.
“They haven’t talked to me,” Zinke said. “It will be the same thing as all the other investigations. I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit.”