By Juliet Elperin, Josh Dawsy and Lisa Rein as published on The Washington Post
“…administration officials’ concerns have intensified as allegations have grown against Zinke”
The White House is growing increasingly concerned about allegations of misconduct against Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, according to two senior administration officials, and President Trump has asked aides for more information about a Montana land deal under scrutiny by the Justice Department.
Trump told his aides that he is afraid Zinke has broken rules while serving as the interior secretary and is concerned about the Justice Department referral, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter. But the president has not indicated whether he will fire the former Navy SEAL and congressman and has asked for more information, the officials said.
This week, Interior’s Office of Inspector General referred the inquiry — one of several probes into the secretary’s conduct — to the Justice Department to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted. That referral concerns Zinke’s involvement in a Whitefish, Mont., land development deal backed by David J. Lesar, chairman of the oil services firm Halliburton.
The business and retail park, known as 95 Karrow, would be near parcels of land owned by Zinke and his wife, Lola. The inspector general is looking at discussions Zinke had with Lesar and others about the development that could indicate he was using his office to enrich himself.
Interior has played no role in the Montana project, but congressional Democrats asked for an investigation in June because the department issues regulations on oil and gas development that have financial implications for companies such as Lesar’s.
No decision about Zinke’s tenure has been made, the officials said. But the shift within the West Wing highlights the extent to which the interior secretary’s standing has slipped in recent months…(CONTINUED)