A former Trump official lied to federal investigators about a tribal casino application, according to a report released by the US Department of the Interior (DOI).
Ryan Zinke, Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, has been thrust into the spotlight following a report from the DOI’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) regarding the Department’s decision to deny a request from two Native American tribes.
They wanted to build and operate a casino in Connecticut together, but the DOI rejected their bid. This decision prompted an OIG investigation, during which Zinke and his COS made statements “with the overall intent to mislead” investigators.
Zinke claimed that he “relied solely” on internal guidance when making the decision, but the OIG determined that this was false. Instead, it claimed that Zinke’s decision was influenced by outside lobbying.
“We concluded that Secretary Zinke knowingly provided information designed to lead a reasonable person to believe that he relied solely on internal guidance in making his decision regarding the tribes’ amendments,” the OIG wrote.
It claimed that witness testimony, as well as text and email messages, described a “in-depth, long-term effort to advocate against a decision that they believed would be harmful to the interests of their constituent and client, respectively.”
The OIG report, however, makes no mention of “the propriety of Secretary Zinke’s decision” or “whether that decision was influenced by casino lobbyists.” Instead, it focuses on his “lack of candour” when pressed.
“Our report set forth evidence that Secretary Zinke misled OIG investigators when they asked him if he discussed the matter of the tribes’ amendments with anyone outside the DOI,” it wrote.
Zinke is currently running for a seat in the Montana House of Representatives. His attorneys mentioned this in their response to the OIG’s report, which called the timing of its release “disturbing and improper.”