slot queen latest video-Watchdog Finds Trump Interior Boss Ryan Zinke Lied To Investigators — Again

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Former Interior Secretary and current GOP congressional candidate Ryan Zinke and his then-chief of staff lied repeatedly to investigators about their attempt to quash a tribal casino in Connecticut, the Interior Department’s internal watchdog concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The report from the Office of Inspector General offers the most damning evidence in long-running allegations that Zinke personally blocked the casino project, a partnership between the Mashantucket Pequot and the Mohegan tribes, at the urging of lobbyists from competing casino giant MGM Resorts International, then misled federal investigators about his actions.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and his then-chief of staff misled federal investigators about their attempt to quash a tribal casino in Connecticut, according to an internal watchdog report.
Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and his then-chief of staff misled federal investigators about their attempt to quash a tribal casino in Connecticut, according to an internal watchdog report.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images
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“We concluded that Secretary Zinke and the Chief of Staff did not comply with their duty of candor when they knowingly provided incorrect, incomplete, and misleading answers to OIG investigators in response to questions about their involvement in the decision to return the Tribes’ amendments without action,” the report states.

Shortly after Zinke’s appointment, a political consultant and lobbyist working for a casino repeatedly contacted him about the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan’s proposal to build a joint casino in Connecticut outside tribal land, according to the report. The report does not name the competing casino that sent the lobbyist, but MGM runs a nearby casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, and lobbied against the tribes building a new one.

The two tribes sued the agency over its initial decision, arguing that Zinke’s refusal to grant the tribes’ request was due to “improper political influence.” The Interior Department ultimately signed off on the proposal in 2019, but not before the inspector general referred the matter to the Department of Justice to investigate potential criminal violations. The DOJ declined to press charges in the summer of 2021, according to the report.

The political consultant for the casino went skiing with Zinke and the casino lobbyist repeatedly dined with Zinke at his home in Washington, attended a private event with him at his government office, and texted his personal cellphone, according to phone and email records cited by the OIG. The lobbyist also contacted Zinke’s chief of staff, who is not named in the report.

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The lobbyist repeatedly mentioned his efforts to get Zinke to block the casino, the records show. An unidentified U.S. senator also pushed both Zinke and his chief of staff to reject the new tribal casino.

When questioned by OIG investigators, Zinke responded more than 10 times that he relied on agency attorneys and his associate deputy secretary alone to decide whether to let the tribal casino move forward. But the associate deputy secretary, a career official, told investigators that tribal gaming issues don’t involve the interior secretary. Neither the career staff nor agency lawyers interviewed by investigators opposed the casino.

Investigators asked Zinke whether he discussed his decision with anyone outside the Department of the Interior. He told them he didn’t. When asked specifically about the unnamed lobbyist, he said only that he had met the person, and declined to mention all his other interactions with them. When asked whether he discussed his decision with the U.S. senator, he said the senator didn’t have a position and didn’t lobby him one way or another.

Agency lawyers told investigators that Zinke hadn’t discussed his concerns about the tribal casino with them. They only found out the day that the Department of the Interior issued its decision. The U.S. senator told investigators that he spoke with Zinke and specifically asked him not to approve the amendments needed to let the tribal casino move forward.

Reached for comment, Zinke’s campaign sent HuffPost a statement from Zinke’s attorney, Danny Onorato, in which he touted Zinke’s life accomplishments and dismissed the report as “another political smear.” In a letter to the Interior Department’s watchdog earlier this month, an attorney for Zinke argued unsuccessfully that it would be “inappropriate” to release the report so close to the November election. Zinke is the Republican nominee for Montana’s newest congressional seat.

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“We believe the finding that Secretary Zinke lacked candor are [sic] wrong and without merit,” the attorney’s letter reads. “We ask that you consider the above and not so find in any report. Moreover, we believe the timing of the release of the report is flawed and given the passage of time, must wait until after the election.”

During his time at the Interior Department, Zinke racked up nearly 20 federal investigations into his conduct and policy decisions. He has repeatedly dismissed those probes as a coordinated, left-wing attack and falsely claimed he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

In a separate report in February, the IG concluded that Zinke violated ethics rules and misused his office with his continued involvement in a real estate project in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, and that he lied to investigators about it.

Much like Wednesday’s report, Zinke’s campaign dismissed February’s as a “political hit job” by the Biden administration. Both of them were issued by Mark Greenblatt, the Trump-nominated inspector general of the agency.

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