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Zinke's Shrinking of National Monuments and Meetings With Halliburton Could be Center of DOJ Investigation
One of the Department of Interior's (DOI) internal watchdog investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's behavior while in office has been referred to the Justice Department, which only happens when investigators determine there might have been a criminal violation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Two sources familiar with the investigation broke the news to the press, but did not specify which of the probes into Zinke's actions was involved. A senior White House official only told The Washington Post that the investigation revolved around whether Zinke "used his office to help himself."
The Department of Interior's (DOI) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is currently running three ethics investigations of Zinke. These include whether his decision to shrink Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was partly to benefit a local lawmaker and if conversations with the chair of oil-giant Halliburton about a Montana development project Zinke stands to benefit from constituted a conflict of interest.
"The evidence is mounting that Ryan Zinke has criminally abused his power to exploit taxpayer funds in order to afford the lavish lifestyle he desires while working to enrich his friends in the fossil fuel industry. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "Ryan Zinke has done his best to emulate Scott Pruitt, now it's time he finishes the impersonation and resigns."
The news comes two weeks after rumors that Zinke would replace acting Inspector General Mary L. Kendall with a Trump administration political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. DOI denied those reports, but Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala suggested that they still put the independence of the internal DOI investigation at risk.
"If Interior's inspector general is unable to hold Secretary Zinke accountable without political interference, it's time for career prosecutors at the Justice Department to take over," she said in a statement reported by The Washington Post.
Zinke himself brushed off the Justice Department investigation and said no one from the department had contacted him.
"They haven't talked to me. It will be the same thing as all the other investigations. I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit," he told CNN.
Ryan Zinke visited Grand Canyon National Park on Sept. 22.U.S. Department of the Interior
These are the three investigations that might get Zinke in criminal trouble:
- Grand Staircase Escalante: When Zinke redrew the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, he drew them around a piece of land belonging to a state lawmaker, prompting concerns that he was trading public lands for political favors.
- Halliburton Deal: Zinke has met with Halliburton Chair David Lesar while in office and discussed a Montana real estate development owned by Lesar's son that might include a brewery that the Zinke's would run and could increase the value of land nearby owned by the Zinke's foundation. The DOI is involved with regulating Halliburton.
- Connecticut Casino Controversy: Connecticut lawmakers asked for an investigation into Zinke's handling of a potential Native American casino project. He met with lobbyists opposed to the project, but refused to meet with proponents and may have given false information to the tribes involved.
- Did Ryan Zinke Try to Fire His Department's Inspector General for ... ›
- A Guide to the 15 Federal Investigations into Ryan Zinke - CREW ›
- How a new ethics investigation fits into Ryan Zinke's other problems ... ›
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."