Federal Watchdog Accuses Trump’s Ex-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of Lying During Casino Investigation

  • Report said Zinke lied to feds, deceived the DOI over a tribal casino proposal in Connecticut
  • A proposal by two tribes to co-operate a casino was sent back to them by Zinke in 2017
  • Tribes’ suit stated that Zinke’s decision “was influenced by improper lobbying from MGM”
  • Attorney called for the report to get released after Zinke’s bid to win a congressional seat this fall 
Ryan Zinke
A federal watchdog has released a report that concludes ex-Trump interior secretary Ryan Zinke (pictured above, center) lied to investigators over a tribal casino proposal in Connecticut. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Exposed as a liar

The US Department of the Interior (DOI)’s Inspector General Mark Greenblatt has exposed Donald Trump’s ex-interior secretary Ryan Zinke as lying to federal investigators and intentionally deceiving them over a tribal casino proposal in Connecticut.

The DOI’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) took to Twitter on Wednesday with a link to its new investigation:

Zinke, who is vying for a Montana congressional seat this fall, lied to the feds several times about his discussions with lobbyists, lawmakers, and others on the tribal casino issue, the watchdog stated in a report. The lies were in relation to a petition from two tribes who wanted to open a casino in East Windsor, Connecticut.

Investigators have found that Zinke and Scott Hommel, who was Trump’s Chief of Staff when the decision on the tribal casino was made, “did not comply with their duty of candor when questioned.”

Return to sender

According to the Greenblatt report, the 2017 bid from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes was for a casino located less than 20 miles from MGM Resorts International’s planned casino in Massachusetts, MGM Springfield, which opened its doors in 2018.

The tribes needed federal approval for their casino proposal, which included an amendment to become joint operators so as not to violate their existing gambling agreements. MGM Resorts quickly jumped into action, urging Zinke to keep his official ink dry on the tribes’ petition.

premature and likely unnecessary”

Zinke neither signed off on their proposal nor tossed it. Instead, he sent the petition proposal back to the tribes, stating it was “premature and likely unnecessary.”

Zinke’s curious behavior led to a probe by the DOI. The two tribes also teamed up with the state of Connecticut to bring a suit against Zinke’s decision, saying it “was influenced by improper lobbying from MGM Resorts among others.”

Federal approval was granted the two tribes in 2019 to operate a casino in East Windsor. In September, old adversary MGM filed a lawsuit against the federal government, stating that federal statutes were broken when an expansion agreement for the casino was approved.

Greenblatt’s report on Wednesday concluded that: “We found that both Secretary Zinke and the [chief of staff] made statements that presented an inaccurate version of the circumstances in which [the DOI] made key decisions.”

Office hopes dashed?

Zinke’s camp is up in arms that Greenblatt released the report before his November election bid. Zinke is the GOP nominee for a US House seat representing western Montana.

While the DOI watchdog’s report included a redacted response that did not mention Zinke’s attorney by name, the letterhead reads Schertler Onorato Mead & Sears, self described as a “boutique litigation firm in Washington, D.C.”

Zinke’s attorney called the report “disturbing and improper.” The unnamed attorney added the Zinke camp believed: “the timing of the release of the report is flawed and given the passage of time, must wait until after the election.”

To not do so, stated the attorney’s email to the watchdog on page 38 of the report, “would insert the findings of this stale and inaccurate investigative report into the electoral process and could prejudice Secretary Zinke.”

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