President Donald Trump defended Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Monday as accusations of ethical misconduct surround Trump’s chief federal land manager.
The inspector general of the Department of the Interior referred one of its ongoing probes to the Justice Department for a potential criminal investigation, The Washington Post first reported. It’s unclear which probe was referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Before taking off on a three-state rally blitz before midterm elections, Trump fielded questions from reporters on his stance on Zinke.
“Well, I think he’s done a very good job. I do think he’s done a very good job,” Trump said moments before taking off on Air Force One.
Asked if he was “troubled” by reports alleging misconduct by Zinke, Trump responded, “Well, I haven’t seen it yet.”
“I’ll take a look. Certainly, I would not be happy with that at all. But I will take a look,” Trump continued. “But he’s done a very good job as secretary.”
At the time the probe was referred to the DOJ, the IG had two open investigations into Zinke. One involved a Montana land deal between Zinke and former Halliburton chairman David Lesar. The other is looking into possible political motivations behind the DOI denying two Native American tribes approval to build a proposed casino off reservation land.
The IG has launched at least a dozen probes into Zinke’s conduct since he began his tenure at the DOI, The New York Times reports.
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