Zinke denies he's under investigation for lying

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday denied reports he is under investigation for lying to the Interior Inspector General's Office. 

Zinke told The Associated Press in his first interview since leaving office that the allegations he lied to investigators are false.

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The Washington Post earlier in the day reported that the department's public integrity section is looking into whether Zinke lied to watchdog's office, which was looking into various inquiries pertaining to Zinke's tenure. The Justice Department is now probing the matter for potential criminal violations, sources told the Post.

Zinke left the agency Wednesday.

“It’s an unauthorized leak from an anonymous source over false allegations,” Zinke told the AP.

He said he answered questions for the inspector general's office about the Interior's decision to reject signing off on a proposal from two tribes to run a commercial casino off reservation land in Connecticut.

He claimed that he answered those questions truthfully when he was pressed by investigators on two separate times. 

Zinke added that investigators never asked him about a land deal Zinke entered into with the chairman of oil services company Haliburton.

“They believe I’m going to run for governor, or they want to dismiss the Trump administration’s accomplishments in conservation,” Zinke said, referring to his critics. “The investigations started nearly on the first day in office. After 10 investigations, the conclusions are all the same: No wrongdoing, followed all procedures, policies and laws. Every investigation will follow the same conclusion.”

The Post reported that it was unclear what alleged lie by Zinke is being investigated, but sources said it was not about the land deal he struck.

Zinke, a former Republican congressman from Montana, has been the subject of more than a dozen investigations for his conduct in office. He has faced scrutiny over a land deal involving a foundation he led and a company backed by David Lesar, chairman of Halliburton.