Probe into Ryan Zinke’s Conduct is Referred to the DOJ for Potential Criminal Investigation
The Interior Department Office of Inspector General has reason to believe that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has committed criminal acts. The Office of Inspector General shared the findings of one of its probes into Zinke’s conduct with the Justice Department, which indicates the Inspector General feels there are grounds to launch a criminal investigation.
The Office of Inspector General is not authorized to conduct criminal investigations. It is obliged to refer cases that require a criminal investigation to the Justice Department.
According to the Washington Post, acting inspector general, Mary L. Kendall, was investigating Zinke’s conduct in three separate probes, one of which centers on Zinke’s involvement in a Montana land development deal backed by the chairman of Halliburton. It remains unclear which investigation is being referred to the Justice Department.
A senior White House official speaking to the Washington Post on the condition of anonymity would only reveal that Zinke may have “used his office to help himself”.
Zinke has an extensive rap sheet when it comes to political controversies. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group committed to fostering an ethical and accountable government, reported that there were 15 federal investigations into his behavior since becoming Interior Secretary in March 2017.
The investigations range from threatening Senator Murkowski to censoring climate change from reports, allowing his wife to travel with him on government trips, and a suspicious real estate deal.
Zinke is also actively seeking to replace acting inspector general Kendall. Two weeks ago, Secretary Ben Carson told his staff that one of his aides, Suzanne Israel Tufts would replace Kendall as the Interior Department’s inspector general. Zinke refuted the claim several days later.
If the Democrats secure a congressional majority next year, Zinke could be called on to explain why an investigation into his behavior in office warranted referral to the Department of Justice. This may not be the last we hear of Zinke’s murky dealings.