Posted on August 06 2019
Ongoing Criminal Probe-Zinke
April 2018 - Department of Interior Office of Inspector General (DOI-OOG) published their Investigations in to allegations that (then) DOI Secretary Zinke pulled a (then) HHS Secretary Price. As in Zinke booked chartered jets, Helicopters and impermissibly using “government funds” to travel in high end style. The DOI-OIG found in “general” Zinke followed the “rules”
June 2017 trip during which he used a $12,375 chartered flight after speaking at the developmental camp for the Golden Knights, a National Hockey League team in Las Vegas,
Grijalva and Cummings requested that the OIG:
to conduct “an investigation into whether Secretary Zinke’s use of a private email address to conduct official business complies with federal law, including the Federal Records Act, National Archives regulations, and internal DOI policies.”
I further expounded on this April 2018 letter in this write up and yes I get how exhausting it is and the information overload - because the insanity, I mean intensity of the nonstop scandals that plague the Trump Administration, is by any measure historic. You may disagree with me but I’m firm in my assertion that history will prove that Donald J Trump and the Trump administration will be enshrined in our history books as the most corrupt and lawless administration in modern history
This is the October 2018 - DOI-OIG Report concerning Zinke and the “potential” abuse of his position as to travel arrangements, non-Government persons riding with Zinke in Government fleet vehicles,
Cost the DOI over $25,000. We also determined that Secretary Zinke told his security detail on one occasion to drive a non- Government employee to the airport, but he was later told that this direction was not appropriate, and it has not happened again.
We also found that the DOI received a reimbursement agreement from the White House for $15,000 for an Air Force One flight that Lolita Zinke took with her husband at the invitation of the President
Zinke - Casino, MGM v CT
Shortly after Zinke was sworn in, he took the rather unusual step of literally doing “nothing”. At the time many critics stated this was Zinke demurring to MGM and therefore protecting MGM over the strenuous objections of two Tribes and Connecticut. Resulting in the following civil Complaint - this was an attempt to essentially force action by the DOI:
In February of 2019 lawmakers wrote to the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Requesting an investigation into Zinke’s decision to take no action regarding proposed amendments to the Tribal-State agreements between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes and the State of Connecticut.
The narrative that MGM spent a war chest on lobbying - that’s actually not that far off the mark. This Senate LDA query will take you to their lobbying “investments” if you look at 2015 to present, you’ll notice a rather steady uptick in lobbying. For example in 2016 MGM Resorts spent >$690K in lobbying yet in 2017 MGM spent >$2.1M
The letter follows reporting that raises serious concern about the role of money and lobbyists into Interior’s decision-making.
“In the case of Interior’s decision to take no action regarding the proposed amendments to the Tribal-State agreements between the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot Tribes and the State of Connecticut, ample evidence suggests that the Interior has failed to honor its legal trust responsibilities to the two Tribes,” the letter states.
Lawmakers February 2019 letter to DOI-OIG Found here. Incidentally it was also widely reported that a Federal Grand Jury was empaneled and the genesis of the matter before them was: did Zinke lie to Federal Investigators. To date the matter remains open. Although in March of 2019 the DOI reversed course
Which subsequently lead to the plaintiffs voluntary dismissal of the aforementioned complaint.
The January 2019 DOI-OIG Report INVESTIGATIVE REPORT OF ALLEGED PREFERENTIALTREATMENT IN GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT BOUNDARY DECISION
We found that although the DOI had no formal processes in place for modifying national monument boundaries, DOI staff developed a process and followed it when reviewing the GSENM and other DOI-controlled national monuments under consideration for boundary modifications.
We also found no evidence that Noel influenced the DOI’s proposed revisions to the GSENM boundaries, that Zinke or other DOI staff involved in the project were aware of Noel’s financial interest in the revised boundaries, or that they gave Noel any preferential treatment in the resulting proposed boundaries.
Zinke’s Scribble-scrabble resignation letter
It's been a high honor to serve @POTUS & the American People as @Interior Secretary. We've restored public lands “for the benefits & enjoyment of the people,” improved public access & shall never be held hostage again for our energy needs. God bless America & those who defend her. pic.twitter.com/JXzVmrpDTg— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) January 2, 2019
And yes I know - I get it - the whole “who cares about the letters to/from Congress” - I’ve repeatedly explained why these letters are important - for a variety of reasons but most importantly if you take the time to track & read these “letters” you will from time to time find some interesting fact-nuggets. Case in point late last week this DOJ-OIG Letter was largely overlooked. For example on July 29, 2019 the DOI-OIG sent a letter to the aforementioned House Committee Chairs confirming I believe for the first time in writing actually confirming:
has been folded into a larger criminal probe being coordinated with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
That investigation, which has not been previously publicized, was opened contemporaneous to a related criminal investigation that the OIG is coordinating with DOJ, and the two are now combined into a single unified effort, according to a letter OIG sent to both chairs earlier this week.
Also I am going to point out that in April of 2018, I wasn’t being flippant or sarcastic when I point blank asked Zinke if he had hired a competent White Collar Defense Attorney. I was being stone cold serious. Because it doesn’t take a law degree to know what’s going on in DC and/or when Grand Juries are being empaneled. Here’s what you should know about the DC legal community - word travels fast particularly when (multiple) senior Trump Administration officials are “shopping” around for representation. Especially when you tell numerous firms “generally” why you need said representation - as in did it occur to you why there was a whiplash enduring reversal on the Connecticut Casino?
And why you probably should have paid a lot closer attention to what Zinke was doing and what he was not doing as it relates to Bureau of Indian Affairs - Because if you don’t think the Chairs of the various House Committees do not have multiple whistleblowers - then you really don’t know how DC works and for that matter the import of the various Congressional Hearings, Reports and Letters. Remember this is how Zinke responded to a “perceived protestor” during his May 2017 Bears Ears National Monument.
Which resulted in Earth Justice Filing a lawsuit on behalf of numerous Indian Tribes. The consolidated case No is: 1:17-cv-02587
Subsequently on July 31, 2019 PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR A STATUS CONFERENCE and attached the following Exhibit the reason the plaintiffs filed this motion is they recently learned in (probable) violation of the Court’s October 30, 2018 Order that requires the Federal Defendants to provide all the Plaintiffs with seven days advance notice,- to wit the Trump Administration appears to have flagrantly violated the Order:
Plaintiffs recently learned, however, that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has authorized contractors to conduct a “route inventory” across 3,750 miles within the original Monument boundaries, using motorized vehicles to drive not only on routes open to the public or otherwise open for administrative purposes, but also on routes and claimed routes that have been purposefully closed for decades to all motorized travel
Again it is actually really hard to argue with a Plaintiff - when they have the signed letter of Authorization and the actual contact awards. All of which occurred after the October 2018 Court Order.
Because what this represents is an absolute distain for “the rule of Law” and co-Equal branches of Government. Meaning the Trump Administration will do what they want, when they want, how they want - irrespective of any Court Order or Federal Statutes:
As the lawmakers noted (and previously widely reported) that a D.C grand jury probe of Zinke’s conduct and determination that he lied to federal investigators about the construction of a casino in Connecticut, See the Washington Post Article, found here here. Furthermore the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into Zinke’s role concerning the property development deal in his hometown of Whitefish, MT -
With respect to Zinke’s replacement Acting Secretary Bernhardt’s deletion of his calendar. Earlier this year Chairman Cummings held a hearing with the DOI- Chief- FOIA Officer, Ms Rachel Spector. This was after several (reputable) news organizations reported that “Bernhardt doesn’t keep a calendar” - the exchange between Cummings and Spector - uncomfortable is an understatement:
Chairman Cummings: Ms. Spector, significant concerns have been raised about a lack of transparency in the meetings held by Acting Secretary David Bernhardt. On February 28, 2019, Mr. Bernhardt sent a letter to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva and this is what he said: “I have inquired with the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor and have been advised that I have no legal obligation to personally maintain a calendar. Further, no Agency guidance exists recommending that I create or retain one. I have not personally maintained a calendar for years, and I have no intention of suddenly doing so now.” Is this true? Does Acting Secretary Bernhardt not keep a calendar of his meetings and activities?
Ms. Spector: I was not involved in providing legal advice around this issue, but I am aware that the Secretary Bernhardt’s calendars—that there are calendars that we proactively post on our website—just as we did with Secretary Zinke’s calendars because the public is interested in that information and we received more than three FOIA requests for that material, so we proactively posted on the website.
After the aforementioned House OverSight Hearing, Chairman Cummings wrote to Acting Secretary Bernhardt and requested transcribed Interviews with members of his senior staff - to date it is unclear if the DOI availed these individuals for said interviews.
Recent testimony from a senior official at DOI, as well as recent press reports, raise questions about whether you and other officials are adequately preserving records of your schedule and daily appointments,” the Chairmen wrote. “The Committees are also concerned about whether information about your meetings is being properly released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”
Keep in mind the aforementioned letter was sent after “a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) David Bernhardt expressing significant concern with the rule recently proposed by DOI concerning its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) procedures.” - I’d argue that Bernhardt is just a smarter Zinke and neither are ethical. Because Bernhardt’s unilateral change to the DOI FOIA Procedures includes the following:
📍Shift the burden of identifying the location of agency records from the agency to the public.
📍Set limits on requests when they involve the processing of a “vast quantity of material.”
📍Replace the phrase “time limit” in DOI’s FOIA regulations with “time frame,” which raises the concern that DOI might treat FOIA’s statutorily prescribed time limits as mere guidelines.
📍Allow DOI to “impose a monthly limit on the processing of records” for a given requester. The proposed rule does not explain how the monthly limits would be determined, and it creates a vague standard that could be implemented arbitrarily and unfairly.
None of the proposed changes would affirm the requirement of transparency and accountability that we should all expect from public servants. Moreover Bernhardt (likely at the direction of Trump) stonewalled, refused to avail the four senior DOI staffers for a transcribed interview(s) and literally wrote to Chairman Cummings “you and your committee are bullying our department” - to wit the Chairman sent this letter to Bernhardt
To date (not to repeat myself) the DOI has yet to either; brief the House OverSight Committee, avail agency staff and has engaged in a protracted stonewalling campaign. But having a Senior DOI official send a letter to Congress saying “you’re bullying our staff” - is beyond comprehension.
“Please be advised that any official at the Department who ‘prohibits or prevents’ or ‘attempts or threatens to prohibit or prevent’ any officer or employee of the Federal Government from speaking with the Committee could have his or her salary withheld pursuant to section 713 of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act“
Meaning that yes there is a law on the books that Authorizes federal employees who refuse to cooperate with an investigation - their salaries can (and have been) withheld. This isn’t a threat it’s actually the law and a consequence that public servants are made aware of when they are on the tax payer-payroll. With respect to Ryan Zinke - this article was written nearly seven years ago. More recently, specifically during Zinke’s 2014 Senatorial Campaign his former Navy Commanding Officer and Former Navy Seal CAPT (SEAL), USN (Ret.) Larry Bailey penned what can only be described as a scathing letter/statement concerning Ryan Zinke. It only took me a few minutes of basic research to find this 19+ minute long telephone interview where Bailey is rather forthcoming and elucidates the reason he wrote that statement/letter.
Bottom line is this isn’t personal. At least for me it isn’t. Zinke’s past Conduct and his egregious conduct as Trump’s Secretary of Interior - he is the poster child of the character and quality that Trump looks for in cabinet Members. And that should give all of us serious pause. Because this is the kind of person Trump handpicked as his Secretary of Interior... And yes there are a lot of components detailed in this entry but as with standard practice I’ve embedded the actual links to the original documents - that’s said I’d keep an eye on the No is: 1:17-cv-02587 because I’m certain the Court will either order the Federal Defendants to file a response and/or hold a hearing for oral arguments.
Then again according to some I’m not a paralegal - I have no idea what I’m blogging about and I’m just a bored housewife - now pardon me while I shove more bonbons in my calorie hole - it’s not like they are going to eat themselves /snort
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