August 25, 2022 Casino, Tribal, Legal

Trump’s former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lied to federal investigators, DOI report finds

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Zinke blocked the approval of two Connecticut tribal casinos, influenced by unknown outsiders.

Trump’s former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke knowingly made false statements to federal investigators while serving in his administration, according to a report released by the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Inspector General.

It was found Zinke “knowingly provided incorrect, incomplete, and misleading answers” to block the request made by two Connecticut-based Native American tribes to build new casinos.

Zinke, who left the Trump administration in 2019, is now running for Congress in Montana. He was one of the myriad early Trump Cabinet appointments to become embroiled in various ethics investigations. He came out with no legal repercussions but instead a platform to run for Congress in Montana.

The report, released on Wednesday, is the second time the DOI’s internal watchdog found that Zinke had made false statements while at Interior. While Zinke claimed he had no interfering influence on the casino issue from outside the Interior agency, investigators found evidence of “extensive communications with outside personnel, combined with the absence of information that anyone within the agency advised this course of action.”

The report states that Trump’s chief of staff, left unnamed, was contacted by multiple large casinos and lied about the nature of those interactions when questioned by the DOI.

Zinke’s attorneys disputed the findings in a written response, saying that the report was "wrong and without merit.” They argued that, given his congressional campaign, the release of the report should have been delayed until after the November election. Zinke’s attorney Danny C. Onorato called the investigation “politically motivated” and said the report’s contents and timing constitutes a “political smear.”

The Inspector General’s Office said that it couldn’t agree to delay the report's release and that the lawyers’ arguments did nothing to change its findings.

 

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