Please join in me congratulating Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the latest in a long and ignominious line of Trump administration officials to face serious accusations of using his position in the federal government as a platform for shameless grift.
Multiple outlets on Tuesday reported that Zinke is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice, following a recommendation from Mary Kendall, the Interior Department’s acting Inspector General. Citing two people “familiar with the matter,” The Washington Post says that the investigation stems from a shady land deal involving Zinke and the chairman of arms dealer Halliburton, as well as his denial of a casino license to two Native American tribes in Connecticut.
On October 16, multiple outlets reported that Zinke had fired Kendall and replaced her with Republican attorney and Trump ally Suzanne Israel Tufts, who served as the Assistant Secretary of Administration in Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development. Two days after those reports, however, the DOI told the Washington Post that Kendall was still on the job. A day after that, Tufts resigned from HUD.
Zinke, for his part, has downplayed reports of the investigation, telling CNN that he has yet to even hear from the Justice Department.
“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.” (To reiterate, the Department of Justice—like the Department of the Interior—is part of the Trump administration.)
I have reached out to both the DOJ and Interior for comment on the alleged investigation, and will update this story if either responds.
Zinke now joins former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson as the latest Trump cabinet official to be accused of scummy financial dealings while in office.