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Zinke Calls Montana Land Deal Controversy 'Fake News'

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke on the radio show Voices of Montana Wednesday.
From U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke via Twitter
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke on the radio show Voices of Montana Wednesday.

A federal watchdog group is looking into U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s family land deal with an oil executive. But Zinke is calling the controversy fake news.

The Interior Secretary voiced his anger over a recent news report drawing ties between him and the head of oil and gas giant Halliburton.

“This is exactly what’s wrong with the press,” he said on the radio show Voices of MontanaWednesday. “The President has it right. It’s fake news.”

While Zinke is dismissing the controversy, the U.S. Interior Department’s Inspector General says it may warrant an investigation.

Here’s what we know:

Halliburton chairman and former CEO David Lesar, his son and a real estate developer plan on building a shared parking lot at a veteran’s park owned by Zinke’s family foundation.

Zinke resigned from directing that foundation when he became Interior Secretary and his wife, Lola, took over. But five months after joining President Trump’s cabinet, Zinke met with the three men in his D.C. office.

“We go out to dinner, we talk about the background of the park, what are the neighbors like, what was the vision of the park, where the boundaries are, what the railroad is, so they had the background,” Zinke said.

U.S. House Democrats argue that meeting shows a conflict of interest.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.