WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Interior Department’s acting inspector general has referred a probe into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, media reports said on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources.
Referring a probe to the Justice Department means it will explore whether evidence warrants a criminal investigation. Mary Kendall, the acting inspector general of the Interior Department, is conducting at least three probes into Zinke’s conduct, but it was not clear which probe had been sent to the Justice Department, the Washington Post said.
Kendall is conducting at least three probes into Zinke’s conduct including his involvement in a Montana land deal and a decision not to grant two tribes approval to run a casino in Connecticut.
The Interior Department’s inspector general said in a letter to lawmakers in July that the office was investigating a Montana real estate deal involving a foundation set up Zinke and a development group backed by the chairman of oil service company Halliburton Co.
The Interior Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Zinke told CNN that he had not been contacted by the Justice Department, that he follows the law, and that the DOJ investigation was “politically driven” and “has no merit.”
Nancy DiPaolo, the spokeswoman for the Interior Department’s inspector general office, said she could not comment on any ongoing investigation. The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Nichola Groom, and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)