An investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been referred to the Justice Department.


The Interior Department’s internal watchdog handed over the probe into Zinke to the Department of Justice over two weeks ago, days before it was confirmed Donald Trump would appoint a new acting inspector general.

Department of Housing and Urban Development figurehead Ben Carson informed his staff on Oct. 12 that Suzanne Tufts would leave their team to replace Mary Kendall, the acting inspector general at the Interior Department. One of The Hill’s sources believes the timing on this is “incredibly circumspect,” contemplating if the decision to transfer Tufts was in retaliation to the Department of Justice’s newfound involvement.


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Elizabeth Hempowicz, the director of policy at the Project on Government Oversight, said, “That is exactly what we were concerned about two weeks ago. The IG office is not only in charge of investigating the secretary but keeping the entire agency kind of in check. The movement of a political appointee with no oversight experience into that role kinda makes it look like that move was to stymie that investigation or keep an eye on what was going on internally.”

Currently, there are at least four investigations into Zinke that are ongoing at the Interior Department, and Tufts would have the authority to end any of them. However, she is unable to terminate any investigation that has been transferred to the Department of Justice. The probe’s exact specifications have not been divulged. However, the Interior Department issued a report last month claiming Zinke violated the department’s traveling policies and spent around $25,000 for security while on vacation with his wife.

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