The chairman of oilfield services firm Halliburton Co. has retired amid a federal investigation into a land deal he negotiated with outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWatchdog: Trump official boosted former employer in Interior committee membership Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE.
David Lesar’s retirement was planned at least since May 2017. There is no indication that the ongoing probe by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) implicates Lesar, since it is focused on whether Zinke violated federal ethics standards in the deal.
Lesar’s retirement was effective Monday. Halliburton said Wednesday that Jeff MillerJefferson (Jeff) Bingham MillerPortland names pedestrian overpass after Ned Flanders Congress should explore extending certain VA benefits to Afghan allies Don't blame veterans for Afghanistan withdrawal, and don't forget about them MORE, the current president and CEO, will also serve as chairman going forward.
Zinke, through a nonprofit he used to head, negotiated the deal with a development backed in part by Lesar regarding a plot of land the nonprofit owned in Zinke’s hometown of Whitefish, Mont. The deal was first reported by Politico last year.
The OIG has since referred the probe to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution. The office, which is closed as part of the ongoing partial government shutdown, didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Zinke resigned last month from Interior, and his last day in the post is Wednesday. He has consistently argued that he did nothing wrong.
Shortly after Politico reported on the deal in June 2018, he called the report “fake news.”
“Clearly, I'm not on the board anymore. My wife runs the board,” Zinke said of the nonprofit on Montana radio show Voices of Montana.
“And they make a letter of intent for my wife that, you know what, the community is for this project, the city approves it, it's a good project for Whitefish, we'll share some parking lots with you. That's it,” he said.
“This is exactly what's wrong with the press, and the president has it right. It's fake news. It's knowing, it's willing, to willingly promulgate fake news.”
Halliburton has refused to comment on the matter, saying it involves Lesar strictly in his personal capacity.