Zinke cleared of violating federal rules tied to Pennsylvania special election

Zinke cleared of violating federal rules tied to Pennsylvania special election

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has cleared former Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute Zinke joins board of small gold mining company MORE of accusations that he arranged a grant announcement to interfere in a Pennsylvania special election, CNN reported Tuesday

The OSC, which is separate from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's office, "found no evidence that you violated the Hatch Act during this event," according to a letter obtained by CNN.

Zinke announced mine cleanup grants, including $55 million in Pennsylvania, near the district where then-candidates Rick Saccone (R) and Conor Lamb (D) were running for a congressional seat, according to the letter, which was dated Monday. Saccone was present at the announcement, but "did not have a speaking or other preferred role" at the event, the letter said. 


"OSC's investigation found that the evidence established that [Department of the Interior] DOI had official, nonpolitical, reasons for making the grant announcement," the letter said. 

An OSC spokesperson confirmed in a statement to The Hill that the office "sent a letter regarding the Pennsylvania trip," but did not offer any specifics on its contents, saying that details of its investigations are confidential. The spokesperson later clarified that it did not dispute CNN's characterization of the letter. 

Zinke told The Hill that he followed the law. 

"I followed all rules, regulations, and most importantly, the law," he said in a statement. 

"The false allegations and vicious attacks wasted millions in taxpayer dollars and only served to dissuade others from public service," he added. 

Zinke announced his resignation in December, citing "false allegations" as a reason for leaving. The Justice Department is continuing a separate probe against Zinke, but has not said what it is investigating, according to CNN.

Updated: 4:20 p.m.