Interior watchdog launches investigation into Zinke over real estate deal

Interior watchdog launches investigation into Zinke over real estate deal
© Greg Nash

The Interior Department's Inspector General (IG) is investigating a real estate deal involving Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill MORE and the chairman of a leading oil services company, the IG office confirmed to the Hill Wednesday.

The investigation will focus on a Montana-based commercial development that Zinke is poised to benefit from financially, Politico first reported Wednesday.

The investigation will center on a real estate deal involving Zinke, his wife and his daughter and Haliburton Chairman David Lesar in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Mont.


Zinke, a former Montana congressman, initially proposed the development in 2012 Politico first reported. The project, a large commercial development on a former industrial site, is largely backed by a group funded by Lesar, and a foundation established by Zinke is playing a key role in the plans. Interior IG's office originally confirmed late last month that it was assessing the allegations, but did not not confirm a formal investigation.

Three Democratic House lawmakers called for the investigation, and cited emails that showed Zinke met with Lesar and his son, as well as Montana developer Casey Malmquist, at his Interior offices on August 3, 2017.

The news comes the same day that the House voted down an amendment in the 'minibus’ appropriations bill that would have increased funding for the Interior Department's IG office by $2.5 million. 

Last year the IG office found Zinke failed to properly document his travel and is currently investigating accusations that Interior improperly reassigned a number of employees.

This story was updated at 6:05 p.m.