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Ryan Zinke May Have Resigned as Interior Secretary, But His Legal Problems Just Got a Lot Worse


Former U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned from his post on Dec. 15 after “multiple scandals,“ethics complaints and ongoing investigations into alleged misconduct reached a boiling point. Zinke may be officially out as of Wednesday, but his legal troubles will follow him.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that Zinke is under investigation by the Department of Justice for allegedly lying to the DOI’s inspector general. Per the Post:

Zinke, who left the Trump administration Wednesday, was facing two inspector general inquiries tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his involvement in reviewing a proposed casino project by Native American tribes in Connecticut. In the course of that work, inspector general investigators came to believe Zinke had lied to them, and they referred the matter to the Justice Department to consider whether any laws were violated, the people familiar with the matter said.

Although the DOJ’s public integrity section is said to have been “exploring” a case against Zinke, it’s not known at this time how far along such a probe is or how severe Zinke’s liability might be. The inspector general reportedly grilled witnesses about Zinke’s statements, but there has not yet been a conclusion drawn about whether he should be charged.

18 USC § 1001 says that the DOJ would have to prove Zinke “knowingly and willfully” lied about “material” matters:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry.

Zinke said thorough a spokesman that his participation in two inspector general interviews was voluntary and that his answers about a casino in Connecticut were truthful “to the best of his knowledge.”

[Image via Shawn Thew, Pool/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.