The Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General has referred an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to the Department of Justice (DOJ), CNN reports. Fifteen federal investigations regarding the Interior Secretary’s alleged misconduct have been opened since he started in the position.
“The reasons why Secretary Zinke would want to fire the inspector general are now crystal clear: he will do anything to avoid accountability,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project. “The mere possibility that an Interior Secretary’s behavior could result in a federal criminal investigation is deeply disturbing. One thing is clear: no one is above the law and Secretary Zinke needs to be held accountable for any wrongdoing or misconduct.”
Earlier this month, a leaked email from Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced that the Interior Department’s Acting Inspector General would be replaced with a political appointee from HUD. Interior had no comment on the situation until two full days after the initial leak of the news, at which point they lashed out, claiming that the reported replacement was false while acknowledging that Interior’s Acting Inspector General would be staying in her job.
Immediately after this highly irregular series of events, Interior’s Inspector General released a scathing report that found that Secretary Zinke had wasted $25,000 in taxpayer dollars on a family trip to Turkey, took his campaign donors boating, and told his staff to explore giving his wife a volunteer job at Interior to avoid reimbursing taxpayers for her travel.
With Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gone due to his surfeit of corruption and ethical wrongdoing, Secretary Zinke now remains the most scandal-plagued member of the Trump administration.
“In just two years as Interior Secretary, Zinke has abused his public office for personal gain to an unprecedented degree,” added Saeger. “American taxpayers and public lands users cannot afford to have Congress sit on the sidelines any longer — we demand full accountability and transparency.”