The Department of Justice is now investigating whether former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used a private email account for official business as part of an ongoing criminal probe into Zinke, the Interior Department’s inspector general told Democratic lawmakers in a letter earlier this week.
The Interior Department IG is working with the Justice Department to probe Zinke’s alleged role in a land deal with the head of Halliburton as well as his alleged efforts as interior secretary to dismantle a tribal casino project in Connecticut, both possible offenses first reported by Politico.
In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and House Natural Resources Chairman Raúl Grijalva, Interior Department IG Gail Ennis said the department would fold the pair’s request for a review of Zinke’s personal emails into the criminal probe. In April 2018, Cummings and Grijalva wrote to Ennis requesting a review of Zinke’s private email usage. Zinke resigned in December.
“Last year, the OIG began investigating the matter you presented contemporaneous to a related criminal investigation that we are coordinating with the Department of Justice,” Ennis wrote to Cummings and Grijalva Monday. “In consultation with DOJ and to avoid any interference with the criminal case, we have decided to combine the investigations. When we write our final report of investigation, we will include information that addresses the issues raised in your letter.”
In a statement on Tuesday, Grijalva called Zinke a “perfect metaphor for the Trump administration” and called on the Justice Department to conduct a fair investigation.
“Secretary Zinke’s tenure was a perfect metaphor for the Trump administration: giving public resources to private companies, strictly limiting access to information, doing favors for rich friends, covering up wrongdoing and expecting no consequences,” Grijalva said. “This investigation and others like it are part of restoring public trust in government, which has suffered from the intentional destruction of the Trump years. Leaving office half a step ahead of the law doesn’t wipe the slate clean. It’s imperative that political appointees at the Department of Justice allow this investigation to continue unimpeded regardless of the risk to Mr. Zinke or other Trump officials.”
Zinke is just the latest in a long list of current and former Trump administration officials who are under investigation for using private email accounts for official business, which TPM outlined here.
Read the letter the Interior Department IG sent to Democrats below: