Interior OIG: Zinke lied re: two Connecticut tribal casinos

Republican Ryan Zinke, a contender for Montana’s second congressional seat, speaks at the ceremony to honor the four airman killed in a 1962 B-47 crash at 8,500 feet on Emigrant Peak on July 24, 2021 in Emigrant, Montana. A recent bipartisan Act of Congress will honor the airman with a memorial at the crash site. (Photo by William Campbell/Getty Images)

Following up on February’s U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General 34-page report, titled “Former Secretary Did Not Comply With Ethical Obligations and Duty of Candor,” which was based on a circumspect land development deal, today we have another whopper — this time a 44-page Interior OIG report based on former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s apparent mishandling of issues involving two Indian casinos in Connecticut.

Executive summary: “We investigated actions related to a U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) decision with respect to two Indian Tribes’ plans to jointly construct and operate a casino in Connecticut. During the investigation, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and the DOI Chief of Staff (COS) [Scott Hommel] made statements to DOI Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigators regarding their involvement in that decision. Although we ultimately did not focus on the DOI’s underlying decision, in part due to litigation between the Tribes and the DOI that was ongoing during our investigation and has since been resolved, we found that Secretary Zinke and the COS made statements to OIG investigators with the overall intent to mislead them. We found that both Secretary Zinke and the COS made statements that presented an inaccurate version of the circumstances in which the DOI made key decisions. As a result, we concluded that Secretary Zinke and the COS did not comply with their duty of candor when questioned about their respective involvement in the DOI’s decision.”

OIG conclusion: “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.”

Zinke wanted this report delayed until after the midterms: “In his comments, Secretary Zinke noted that he is currently seeking elected office and that the election will be held in November 2022. He expressed the belief that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for us to release the report at this time and that the timing of release ‘is disturbing and improper’ and due to ‘unnecessary delay.’ Secretary Zinke requested that we postpone release of the report until ‘after the election.’”

DOJ declined prosecution over the issues in the report in summer 2021.

Note: The Interior OIG is led by a Trump appointee, so political motivations are circumspect, yet the report does contain rebuttals from Zinke. The OIG rebuts said rebuttals. Zinke’s lawyer has since blasted the report as a political smear.

Take your guesses in the comments below re: the identities of Tribe 1, Tribe 2, Lobbyist 1, Lobbyist 2, Lobbyist 3, the Political Consultant, the U.S. Senator, the Casino Executive 1, the Casino 2 Executive 1, the Casino Executive 3, the Casino Executive 4, the Casino 2 Executive 1, the Casino 2 Executive 1, and the Casino 2 Executive 2 highlighted in the report.

Read the whole thing here.