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Sources: Justice Department investigating Interior Secretary

edit:casino time:2018-10-31

By Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Lauren Fox and Gregory Wallace, CNN

The Justice Department is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for possibly using his office for personal gain, following a referral from Interior's inspector general, two sources familiar with the investigation say.

The full extent of the inquiry is unclear.

Zinke has faced multiple ethics questions during his time at Interior, and the inspector general's office has multiple public inquiries into the secretary including the department's handling of a Connecticut casino project, whether the boundaries for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument were redrawn to benefit a state lawmaker and conversations between Zinke and Halliburton Chairman David Lesar about a Montana land development project.

Zinke said he has not been contacted by the Justice Department.

"They haven't talked to me. 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," Zinke told CNN.

The Justice Department declined to comment. Interior's inspector general's office said it would not comment on Justice-related issues.

President Donald Trump's Cabinet secretaries have faced scrutiny over their use of government resources, including former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

CNN has also learned Justice Department investigators began probing Scott Pruitt's questionable ethical conduct before he left as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. The inquiry was opened up after a referral from the EPA IG regarding whether Pruitt took any action to benefit an energy lobbyist he rented a condo from for below market rate.

The probe appears to have stalled since Pruitt left office over the summer, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

IG investigations into Zinke

This summer, Interior's inspector general began investigating Zinke's relationship with Halliburton's chairman, including an August 2017 meeting Zinke held at Interior. The two discussed the land development project run by Lesar's son and located near land owned by Zinke's family's foundation. Politico, which uncovered the meeting, reported the development could include a brewery that the Zinkes could run, a potential financial benefit for the Zinkes. One source told CNN that the project has the potential to increase the value of Zinke's land holdings in the area, creating a personal gain for Zinke rather than a benefit for the community as a whole.

As a major energy producer, some of Halliburton's business is regulated by the Interior Department.

Zinke said in a Montana radio show appearance on June 27 that the meeting with Lesar was innocuous.


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