Interior Department watchdog hands over Ryan Zinke probe to DOJ

Chris D'Angelo

The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has referred one of its probes into agency chief Ryan Zinke’s conduct to the Department of Justice, The Washington Post and CNN have confirmed.

Zinke has faced at least 18 formal investigations ― many of them ongoing ― and calls for several others. While iit’s unclear which investigation has been referred to the Justice Department, the move signals that there may have been criminal violations, The Washington Post notes.

Zinke told CNN he hasn’t heard from the Justice Department.

“It will be the same thing as all the other investigations,” he told CNN. “I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and, most importantly, the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit.”

Earlier this month, The Hill and other media outlets reported that a Trump political appointee at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Suzanne Israel Tufts, was set to take over Interior’s internal watchdog role. But Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift denied the story, saying the media had jumped to conclusions.

Also this month, the agency’s Office of the Inspector General determined that Zinke had violated government travel policies by bringing his wife along on taxpayer-funded trips and by asking staff to explore making her a department volunteer, a move that would have legitimized her travel. That probe also found that the Department of the Interior spent $25,000 to send a security detail with Zinke and his wife when they vacationed in Turkey and Greece, but that doing so did not break any rules.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.