in the hot seat
October 30, 2018

The Department of Justice is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke due to a referral from his department's inspector general, CNN reported Tuesday.

It's unclear which of the ongoing probes into Zinke this concerns, since there are at least three, but a White House official told The Washington Post that the DOJ's investigation would be into whether Zinke "used his office to help himself."

One of the three probes is investigating Zinke's involvement in a Montana land development deal after he became secretary of the interior, The Washington Post reports. The deal was backed by the chairman of the oil firm Halliburton, Politico reported in June, opening the interior secretary up to possible complaints of a conflict of interest. Another concerns a casino deal that Zinke did not approve after a nearby casino competitor lobbied against it. Additionally, the Interior Department's inspector general is looking into whether Zinke had a monument's boundaries changed in order to benefit a lawmaker in the area, CNN reports.

This comes a few weeks after the department's inspector general said in a report that Zinke was advised not to have his wife travel with him in government vehicles, also being warned against bringing her on as a volunteer so she wouldn't have to reimburse the department for travel costs, per The Washington Post. Zinke is reportedly expected to leave the Trump administration after next week's election. Brendan Morrow

September 22, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will sit for a deposition on a question about U.S. citizenship that has been added to 2020 census forms, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.

"Applying well-established principles to the unusual facts of these cases, the court concludes that the question is not a close one," wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in his decision. "Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases."

The deposition is part of a suit brought by New York, as well as other cities, states, and counties, seeking to exclude the new question. Critics have argued the citizenship question will distort census results because some immigrants may choose not to participate in the survey.

Ross is the first Cabinet-level official in two decades to be deposed in a civil case. The Department of Justice argued that to "demand for a Cabinet secretary's deposition is extraordinary, unnecessary, and unsupported." Bonnie Kristian

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