4 Cases to Watch at the Supreme Court This Month

Elizabeth Slattery /

The Supreme Court is scheduled to return to Washington next week after nearly a month off. The justices will hear a number of important oral arguments, including cases involving free speech, public employee unions, and digital privacy.

Here are four cases to watch.

Public Employee Unions and the First Amendment

On Feb. 26, the Supreme Court will hear the arguments in one of the most anticipated cases of the year, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31.

This case involves forcing public employees who opt out of union membership to pay a fee for the “fair share” of costs associated with collective bargaining. Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee, argues that forcing him to subsidize the union he has declined to join violates his free speech and free association rights.

The court will look at whether to overturn its 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that public employees could be forced to pay an agency fee.

>>> Watch a live Heritage Foundation event addressing this case and others.

This very issue was before the court in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died. The court deadlocked 4-4 in Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association, thereby upholding the lower court ruling in favor of the California Teachers Association.

Now, with the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, the court should reach the merits in Janus.

Digital Privacy

On Feb. 27, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in United States v. Microsoft Corp. This case deals with whether the Stored Communications Act applies to emails stored outside the United States.

This federal law enhances the privacy of emails stored by third parties and allows law enforcement to obtain emails from providers after securing a warrant.

There is generally a presumption against extraterritorial application of U.S. law without Congress expressly authorizing it. In this case, the U.S. government demanded Microsoft turn over email data stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland, pursuant to the Stored Communications Act.

There also are Irish and European Union laws that could implicate the privacy of this data, and world leaders have criticized the United States for trying to sidestep an existing treaty related to law enforcement cooperation.

Since there are proposals pending in Congress to amend the law, the court ultimately may decide it isn’t the right branch of government to tackle this issue.

Retaliatory Arrest

On Feb. 27, the Supreme Court will hear Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach. This is Fane Lozman’s second trip to the high court.

Back in 2013, the court ruled for Lozman in his lawsuit to save his home (which is a boat) from seizure by the city as part of its plan to redevelop the marina where he resides.

>>> Listen to “SCOTUS 101”: Elizabeth Slattery and Tiffany Bates bring you up to speed on their Supreme Court podcast.

Lozman is an outspoken critic of this plan, and he was arrested at a City Council meeting where he attempted to speak out against corruption on the City Council. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but the state’s attorney dismissed the charges shortly thereafter.

Lozman then filed a Section 1983 civil rights action against the city, arguing that his arrest was retaliation for opposing the development plan and engaging in protected speech. The issue before the court is whether his claim is barred because the arresting officer had probable cause to make the arrest.

Free Speech at the Polls

On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court will consider limits on passive political speech at the polls in Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky.

The state of Minnesota forbids people from wearing apparel with political messages at or near polling places on Election Day, and violations (which are subject to a $5,000 fine and possible criminal charges) include someone wearing a “Don’t Tread on Me” T-shirt and a “Please I.D. Me” button.

While states have a legitimate interest in preventing intimidation and violence at the polls, can they assert an interest in preventing confusion and distraction to broadly ban speech on clothing if it’s deemed “political”?

This could have implications for all kinds of messages that may or may not be considered “political”—”#MeToo,” “Love Wins,” “Choose Life,” “The Future is Female,” and many more.

>>> MAGA Hats Aren’t the Problem at Polls. Government Banning Speech Is.

These are just a few of the cases coming up at the Supreme Court. Later this spring, the justices will hear challenges to the latest version of the travel ban, redistricting in Texas, whether California can force pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise the state’s free abortion program, and many others.

Parents Just Lost Custody of Teenage Daughter Who Wants to ‘Transition’ to a Boy: What You Need to Know - The Daily Signal

Parents Just Lost Custody of Teenage Daughter Who Wants to ‘Transition’ to a Boy: What You Need to Know

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson /

Parents in Ohio lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter Friday because a judge ruled that she should be allowed to receive therapy, including testosterone therapy, to identify as a boy.

Without commenting on the specifics of this case just outside Cincinnati, Americans can expect to see more cases like it as government officials side with transgender activists to promote a radical view of the human person and endorse entirely experimental medical procedures. At stake are not only parental rights, but the well-being of children who suffer from gender dysphoria.

Here’s what you need to know.

Transgender activists maintain that when a child identifies as the opposite sex in a manner that is “consistent, persistent, and insistent,” the appropriate response is to support that identification. This requires a four-part protocol, as I painstakingly detail in my new book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment”:

First, a social transition: giving the child a new wardrobe, a new name, new pronouns, and generally treating the child as if he or she were the opposite sex.

Second, a child approaching puberty will be placed on puberty blockers to prevent the normal process of maturation and development. This means there will be no progression of the pubertal stage, and a regression of sex characteristics that have already developed. Puberty-blocking drugs are not FDA approved for gender dysphoria, but physicians use them off-label for this purpose.

Third, around age 16, comes the administration of cross-sex hormones: Boys will be given feminizing hormones such as estrogen, and girls will be given masculinizing hormones such as androgens (testosterone). The purpose is to mimic the process of puberty that would occur in the opposite sex.

For girls, testosterone treatment leads to “a low voice, facial and body hair growth, and a more masculine body shape,” along with enlargement of the clitoris and atrophying of the breast tissue. For boys, estrogen treatment results in development of breasts and a body shape with a female appearance. These patients will be prescribed cross-sex hormones throughout their lives.

Finally, at age 18, these individuals may undergo sex-reassignment surgery: amputation of primary and secondary sex characteristics and plastic surgery to create new sex characteristics.

To summarize these procedures (described in detail in my book “When Harry Became Sally”): Male-to-female surgery involves removing the testes and constructing “female-looking external genitals.” It may include breast enlargement if estrogen therapy has not produced satisfactory growth of breasts.

Female-to-male surgery often begins with mastectomy. The uterus and ovaries are often removed as well. Some patients will undergo phalloplasty, the surgical construction of a penis, but many do not because the results are variable in quality and functionality.

This four-stage course of treatment is the current standard of care promoted by transgender activists. But the ages for each phase to commence are getting lower. In July 2016, The Guardian reported that “a doctor in Wales is prescribing cross-sex hormones to children as young as 12 who say they want to change sex, arguing that if they are confident of their gender identity they should not have to wait until 16 to get the treatment.”

No laws in the United States prohibit the use of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones for children, or regulate the age at which they may be administered.

Activists claim that the effects of blocking puberty with drugs are fully reversible. This turns things upside down, for virtually every part of the body undergoes significant development in sex-specific ways during puberty, and going through the process at age 18 can’t reverse 10 years of blocking it. The use of puberty-blocking drugs to treat children with gender dysphoria is entirely experimental, as there are no long-term studies on the consequences of interfering with biological development.

Activists claim that blocking puberty allows children “more time to explore their gender identity, without the distress of the developing secondary sex characteristics,” as the Dutch doctors who pioneered this treatment put it.

Another Perspective

This is an odd argument, write three American researchers, all physicians.

“It presumes that natural sex characteristics interfere with the ‘exploration’ of gender identity,” Drs. Paul Hruz, Lawrence Mayer, and Paul McHugh note, “when one would expect that the development of natural sex characteristics might contribute to the natural consolidation of one’s gender identity.”

The rush of sex hormones and the bodily development that happens during puberty may be the very things that help an adolescent come to identify with his or her biological sex. Puberty blockers interfere with this process.

Normally, 80 to 95 percent of children will naturally grow out of any gender-identity conflicted stage. But every one of the children placed on puberty blockers in the Dutch clinic persisted in a transgender identity, and they generally went on to begin cross-sex hormone treatment at around age 16.

Perhaps the Dutch doctors correctly identified the kids who naturally would persist in a transgender identity, but it’s more likely that the puberty blockers reinforced their cross-gender identification, making them more committed to taking further steps in sex reassignment.

Contrary to the claims of activists, sex isn’t “assigned” at birth—and that’s why it can’t be “reassigned.” As I explain in “When Harry Became Sally,” sex is a bodily reality that can be recognized well before birth with ultrasound imaging. The sex of an organism is defined and identified by its organization for sexual reproduction.

Modern science shows that this organization begins with our DNA and development in the womb, and that sex differences manifest themselves in many bodily systems and organs, all the way down to the molecular level.

Secondary differences between the two sexes—attributes that may be visibly altered by hormone treatment and surgery—are not what make us male or female. As a result, cosmetic surgery and cross-sex hormones don’t change the deeper biological reality. People who undergo sex-reassignment procedures do not become the opposite sex, they merely masculinize or feminize their outward appearance.

As the philosopher Robert P. George puts it, “Changing sexes is a metaphysical impossibility because it is a biological impossibility.”

What the Evidence Shows

Sadly, just as “sex reassignment” fails to reassign sex biologically, it also fails to bring wholeness psychologically. The medical evidence suggests that it does not adequately address the mental health problems suffered by those who identify as transgender.

Even when the procedures are successful technically and cosmetically, and even in cultures that are relatively “trans-friendly,” people still face poor psychological outcomes.

Notwithstanding the media hype over supposed differences in brain structure, no solid scientific evidence exists that transgender identities are innate or biologically determined, and some evidence shows that other factors are most likely involved. But in truth, very little is understood about the causes of discordant gender identities.

Starting a young child on a process of “social transitioning” followed by puberty-blocking drugs was virtually unthinkable not long ago, and the treatment is still experimental. Unfortunately, many activists have given up on caution, let alone skepticism, about drastic treatments.

A more cautious therapeutic approach begins by acknowledging that the vast majority of children with gender dysphoria will grow out of it naturally. An effective therapy looks into the reasons for the child’s mistaken beliefs about gender, and addresses the problems that the child believes will be solved if the body is altered.

As I document in “When Harry Became Sally,” mental health professionals liken gender dysphoria to other dysphorias, or serious discomfort with one’s body, such as anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, and body integrity identity disorder. All of these involve false assumptions or feelings that solidify into mistaken beliefs about the self.

McHugh finds that other psychosocial issues usually lie beneath the false assumptions. Children with gender dysphoria may have  anxieties about “the prospects, expectations, and roles that they sense are attached to their given sex.”

Much like patients with anorexia nervosa, these children mistakenly believe that a drastic change of their bodies will solve or minimize their psychosocial problems. But adjusting the body through hormones and surgery doesn’t fix the real problem, any more than liposuction cures anorexia nervosa.

A Different Message

An effective treatment strategy would “strive to correct the false, problematic nature of the assumption and to resolve the psychosocial conflicts provoking it,” McHugh says. In the case of gender dysphoria, unfortunately, the mistaken belief is often encouraged by school counselors who, “rather like cult leaders, may encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery.”

What these young people need, McHugh advises, is to be removed from this “suggestive environment” and be presented with a different message.

The proliferation of gender clinics in America and gender identity programs in the schools makes it less likely that children will get the help they need to work out their issues. Instead, these children find “gender counselors” who encourage them to maintain their false assumptions.

This is contrary to standard medical and psychological practice, as McHugh, Hruz, and Mayer emphasize. Normally, a child is not encouraged to persist in a belief that is discordant with reality. A traditional form of treatment for gender dysphoria would “work with and not against the facts of science and the predictable rhythms of children’s psycho-sexual development.” A prudent and natural course of treatment would enable children to “reconcile their subjective gender identity with their objective biological sex,” avoiding harmful or irreversible interventions.

The most helpful therapies do not try to remake the body to conform with thoughts and feelings—which is impossible—but rather to help people find healthy ways to manage this tension and move toward accepting the reality of their bodily selves. This therapeutic approach rests on a sound understanding of physical and mental health, and of medicine as a practice aimed at restoring healthy functioning, not simply satisfying the desires of patients.

Biology isn’t bigotry. And as I explain in “When Harry Became Sally,” there are human costs to getting human nature wrong.

Sessions Says FBI’s Handling of Anti-Trump Dossier ‘Will Be Investigated’ - The Daily Signal

Sessions Says FBI’s Handling of Anti-Trump Dossier ‘Will Be Investigated’

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White /

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department is investigating the accuracy of information the FBI submitted before the 2016 election about a “dossier” damaging to Donald Trump to obtain a warrant to surveil a campaign adviser.

“That will be investigated and looked at,” Sessions said in an interview Sunday.

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Maria Bartiromo, host of Fox’s “Sunday Morning Futures,” had asked Sessions: “Are you, sir, investigating the fact that the FBI used the dossier to get a wiretap against Trump associates and they did not tell the FISA court that the Democrats and [the] Hillary Clinton [campaign] paid for the dossier?”

“Let me tell you, every FISA warrant based on facts submitted to that court [has] to be accurate,” Sessions replied.

“That will be investigated and looked at, and we are not going to participate as a Department of Justice in providing anything less than a proper disclosure to the court before they issue a FISA warrant. Other than that, I’m not going to talk about the details of it, but I tell you, we’re not going to let that happen.”

FISA refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a secret court system to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Sessions did not provide additional details about the investigation, which has been urged by Republican lawmakers.

In October 2016, not long before the election, the FBI and Justice Department submitted an application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain a spy warrant against Carter Page, a business consultant and campaign volunteer who had left the Trump team a month earlier.

The partisan dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele is said to have been a significant part of the application to the court, even though the salacious document about Trump’s connections to Russia was and is largely unverified.

Republican lawmakers have asserted that law enforcement officials who submitted the application failed to note to the court that the dossier was funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The application does note that the dossier was put together by a “U.S. person” with political motivations, but Republicans have argued that the application should have been more specific.

Republicans also alleged that Steele, the opponent of Trump who authored the dossier, misled the FBI by failing to reveal that he met with reporters in September 2016 to discuss his investigation of Trump.

One of those reporters, Michael Isikoff of Yahoo! News, wrote a story based on Steele’s information.

That Sept. 23, 2016, article, which included Steele’s allegations about Page, also was used by the FBI and Justice Department to help justify the surveillance warrant. The application did not note that the Isikoff article came from the same source as the dossier.

Also Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., offhandedly criticized former President Barack Obama for not doing enough to warn voters about the Russian government’s attempt to meddle during the presidential election.

Obama probably didn’t do enough to raise a red flag after he found out Russia interfered in the election, Sanders said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” before pivoting to criticize Trump for downplaying Russia’s role.

“Obama was in a very difficult position and didn’t want to make it appear he was favoring Hillary Clinton,” Sanders, who challenged Clinton for the Democratic nomination, said. “Maybe he should have done more.”

An indictment announced Friday alleged that 13 Russian nationals tried to help both Sanders and Trump during their respective presidential candidacies.

Special counsel Robert Mueller secured the indictment from a grand jury against the Russians, affiliated with three Russian companies suspected of interfering in the election. The goal was to create chaos inside the U.S. political process, according to the indictment.

The indicted Russians operated both pro- and anti-Trump social media accounts. The accounts also were used to provide support for Sanders, at the time considered a formidable opponent to Clinton, and to Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Sanders’ comments Sunday came after Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House intelligence committee, said Obama should have called out Russian meddling much sooner.

New protections must be enacted to prevent similar election meddling, Sanders said, referring specifically to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

“We have got to do everything we can to make sure that they do not undermine American democracy,” he said.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org

History Has a Way of Vindicating Great Presidents. So Don’t Prejudge Trump. - The Daily Signal

History Has a Way of Vindicating Great Presidents. So Don’t Prejudge Trump.

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim /

A recent event in Washington featured accomplished academics and government officials, some of whom had worked for either the George W. Bush or Obama administrations, discussing the first year of the Trump administration.

The moderator for one panel mentioned how a former president had been unfairly maligned during his time, and how a significant percentage of Americans had held a low opinion of him.

Since then, however, new evidence emerged that changed the perception of that president—declassified information on how he ran his meetings and made decisions. Essentially, the evidence shows that president to have been an effective commander in chief who made wise decisions.

It appears that this president’s critics—who had scoffed at and maligned him—were wrong in their assessment, and history’s evaluation has been much kinder.

Despite this insight, I was surprised to find that most of the rest of the panel consisted of scoffing at and maligning our current president, Donald Trump.

I raised my hand. I asked the moderator, given that history often sheds new light on our presidents, is it possible that we were falling into the same trap? Are we evaluating our current president too harshly? Are we assuming too much?

After all, wasn’t the entire premise of his book that we’ve unfairly judged presidents in the past?

He responded by saying yes, that is a possibility, but we can’t possibly know it until much later. So the attacks—the scoffs, the chuckles—on our current president continued.

His response left me unsatisfied. American presidents typically are attacked both fairly and unfairly—it’s been a feature of our republic since the founding. But why do we have to wait decades later before we think more deeply or exercise more caution about our presidents?

Two presidents, in particular, demonstrate to us the need for this caution.

Throughout his tenure, Dwight D. Eisenhower was dismissed by critics as passive and disengaged—as a benign, grandfatherly figure who was ill-suited for the atomic age.

His occasional mispronunciations gave critics the impression that he didn’t have the intellectual heft to be president. The fact that he appointed several business leaders to his Cabinet convinced some that he was a puppet of Wall Street.

The year after Eisenhower left office, academics ranked him as a below-average president (21st out of 31).

Of course, presumptions about Eisenhower’s intellect ignored the fact that he was one of the most accomplished military figures in American history, leading the successful invasion of Normandy in 1944 and serving as the first supreme commander of NATO.

Since then, historians have discovered that Eisenhower’s supposed passivity was a misperception that resulted from his preference for working behind the scenes, and that in actuality, he was fully in charge of his presidency.

They also note that Eisenhower deftly handled several Cold War crises in the nuclear age (in the Taiwan Strait, the Suez Canal, and in Lebanon, to name a few), all the while keeping the peace.

In some ways, Eisenhower’s genial persona was a valuable political asset that he exploited to maximum political benefit. It allowed him to remain above the fray, immune to petty politics.

In 2017, a C-Span survey of academics ranked Eisenhower as the fifth-greatest president, even ahead of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson.

More recently, Ronald Reagan also was dismissed as an intellectual lightweight, an “amiable dunce.” Reagan’s critics believed him to be a right-wing war monger whose defense budget increases and tough rhetoric against the Soviet Union (or, as he called it, the “evil empire”) could lead to nuclear war.

In 1980, Reagan insisted he was “willing to negotiate an honest, verifiable reduction in nuclear weapons.” Soon after entering office, he explored the possibility of reducing nuclear weapons and even eliminating all intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe.

These efforts seemed to go against Reagan’s image as a right-wing cowboy.

Critics, including those in the Freeze movement (which advocated a freeze in the building of nuclear warheads), dismissed Reagan’s moves as efforts to kill arms control efforts. There was no way, they believed, that right-wing Reagan was serious about reducing Cold War tensions.

But when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev took power in Moscow in 1985, Reagan found a willing partner. The rapport they built up in their summits in Geneva in 1985 and Reykjavík in 1986 helped to end the Cold War.

Reagan’s critics no longer could question his sincerity when he and Gorbachev signed a treaty in 1987 that eliminated all intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles—far beyond what any previous Democrat or Republican president had achieved in nuclear arms control.

While Eisenhower’s critics misjudged his capabilities, Reagan’s misjudged both his capabilities and his intentions. When he said he was willing to talk with the Soviets and reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, he really meant it, and proved it by his actions.

It is always a tricky thing to attempt to discern someone’s motives. Like all of us, presidents are complex individuals facing a myriad of pressures.

When it comes to our current president, this game gets even more difficult amid the fog of fake news and tweets. Almost everyone has strong opinions on Trump that, in some way, bias our evaluations of him.

History offers a cautionary tale—especially to the scoffers in Washington—that our initial assessments of presidents could be wrong and that future generations could see them very differently.

Veterans Affairs Chief Alleges Hack of Email, but Agency Says No Evidence of It - The Daily Signal

Veterans Affairs Chief Alleges Hack of Email, but Agency Says No Evidence of It

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista /

In an interview, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin detailed new claims that his agency was hacked or spoofed, but the VA released a statement within the hour saying it could find no evidence of compromised emails.

“It was a request to wire money out of the VA to somewhere else,” Shulkin said of one email in the interview Friday with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., said the discrepancy between Shulkin and his own agency appeared to be evidence of an attempt to “muddy the waters” around an investigation that led to the resignation of Shulkin’s chief of staff.

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An inspector general’s report released Wednesday said taxpayers were billed wrongfully for Shulkin’s wife’s travel to Europe.

That report hinged upon findings that the VA secretary’s longtime chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, changed a June 2017 email to facilitate the payments for the trip.

On Thursday, Shulkin implied to a House committee that Simpson might not have been responsible for that email, and rather, it might have been a hacker impersonating her. He insisted that his department has “found there are people sending emails from her account that aren’t her.”

In a videotaped interview Friday at the offices of The Daily Caller News Foundation, Shulkin said his assertions of hacking rested upon an impersonation attempt that occurred hours before he told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about a history of such activity.

On the day the inspector general’s report came out, an email sent from his chief of staff’s account requested a suspicious wire transfer of funds from the VA, he said.

“It was a request to wire money out of the VA to somewhere else,” Shulkin said. “Fortunately our finance department thought that was an unusual request and brought it to our attention, so there was no money sent out.”

He added:

The finance department came to Mrs. Wright Simpson on Wednesday morning and said, ‘Why are you requesting a wire transfer outside the VA?’ and they brought her the email, and she said, ‘I never wrote that email.’ Mrs. Simpson’s email was being impersonated by someone else.

Shulkin said the financial request was “hacking” or “spoofing,” and did not actually come from Simpson.

“Wednesday was the first time that I was aware of that single situation, and certainly want to make sure that we understand whether it was an isolated situation or something more extensive. … I don’t know whether this is related to the approval of the travel, that’s something we want to understand, but we don’t have any evidence of that right now.”

“The motivation was a financial crime,” Shulkin said.

‘No Evidence’

It was not clear what motive an impersonator would have for altering an email to help Shulkin’s wife, Merle Bari, book a trip, and the VA secretary acknowledged that “we have no evidence that that’s related to the IG report, none at all.”

An hour after he left The Daily Caller News Foundation’s newsroom Friday afternoon, the VA’s website posted a statement saying it had found no evidence of any hack, either in June or Wednesday.

“We have thus far found no credible or conclusive evidence of a compromise to our email system or a user’s account,” it said.

Some observers questioned Shulkin’s claims that someone was impersonating his chief of staff and said they were suspicious that his allegations coincided with the release of the inspector general’s report.

“Based on the timing and the VA’s own press release, which found no evidence of an outside intrusion, this appears like it could be a setup, a faked hack,” said Coffman, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I think that’s very suspicious. This is kind of ‘My dog ate my homework.'”

Congress should call for Shulkin’s resignation, Coffman said, because of what he calls earlier manipulation of evidence and now the implication to lawmakers that there was credible reason to think the email might not be real.

“What we know now is there’s no evidence of a hack,” Coffman said. “I think he’s trying to muddy the waters on this. It’s not the issue itself, it’s the cover-up; it speaks to his lack of integrity.”

An early indication that the “hack” wasn’t what it seemed came at the hearing Thursday, when a committee member said the Justice Department  should be brought in to prosecute the hacker, Coffman said.

“I looked at the secretary’s face, and he seemed surprised, like ‘Uh-oh.’ But what else would you do?”

‘A Serious Crime’

Pete Hegseth, a former head of Concerned Veterans for America who has studied the Department of Veterans Affairs, said that “to any level-headed person, this appears to be manufactured.”

“The IG needs to look into whether he made this up,” Hegseth said.

Shulkin has gone to significant lengths to try to control the fallout of the inspector general’s report. Before the purported impersonation attempt, the VA secretary hired an outside company specializing in public relations crisis management to come up with strategies to rebut the findings.

Shulkin found himself on thin ice with the White House after warning officials there that a report was coming, but downplaying its severity. The action caused some Trump administration officials to feel misled, The Washington Post reported. The White House forced Shulkin to delete a statement that said, “I have done nothing wrong.”

But on Friday, he declined to provide examples when asked if he’d done anything wrong.

In initial comments Thursday to Congress and to reporters, Shulkin implied that an impersonator may have written the email on travel to Europe.

However, the questioned email came following a verbal conversation, in the middle of a rapid-fire, back-and-forth email thread, and included a request by Simpson to move the conversation over to phone by calling her at her office.

Simpson herself would not deny having altered the email, but instead played coy, the inspector general’s report said.

Shulkin didn’t explain how someone could have sent out emails in Simpson’s name without his chief of staff’s knowledge given that recipients replied to those emails.

Shulkin said he did recognize that someone sending an email using his chief of staff’s name would be a serious offense.

“Impersonating a government official’s email is a serious crime,” he said.

New Trip ‘Not Happening’

Simpson stepped down from her post hours before Shulkin’s interview.

“Simpson has elected to retire following the release of a VA Inspector General investigation,” the agency said in a press release. “VA also announced that it has opened a formal investigation into her actions.”

Shulkin acknowledged that the scandal has become not about the European junket, but about his trustworthiness and integrity.

The inspector general’s report determined that Shulkin personally said he could accept free tickets to Wimbledon on the trip because they were given by a friend of his wife’s, but that person could not recall his wife’s name.

Investigators also found that the VA “issued a misleading statement to The Washington Post about the trip and did not correct the statement.”

John Ullyot, assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, said Shulkin personally drafted the offending passage, but the VA secretary said he had no involvement.

Before the Friday interview, The Daily Caller News Foundation learned from a senior department official that Shulkin has an upcoming official trip to the Vatican with his wife.

In the interview, Shulkin was asked what benefit the trip would provide to taxpayers or veterans.

“I am not going on any trip to the Vatican or any trip abroad. That is not happening,” Shulkin responded.

The source reiterated that the trip is currently on the books, saying Shulkin and his wife are scheduled to travel to Vatican City from April 20 to 29 to attend the Pontifical Council for Culture.

The Vatican is the one of few countries that do not have a military. The Council for Culture includes a show of European art and religious history.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycaller

We Hear You: Amnesty Politics, Improving the Immigration System, and Why America Chose Trump - The Daily Signal

We Hear You: Amnesty Politics, Improving the Immigration System, and Why America Chose Trump

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista / Ken McIntyre /

Editor’s note: Some conservatives saw victory in the Senate’s inability to attract 60 votes to advance any of several immigration reform bills before the weekend, including President Donald Trump’s preferred solution. The Daily Signal’s audience isn’t shy about why some liberals favor amnesty and citizenship status for illegal immigrants.Ken McIntyre

Dear Daily Signal: Regarding Dennis Prager’s commentary, we can point fingers all day, but the situation is that America has a serious illegal immigration problem (“Why the Left Wants More and More Immigrants”). It needs to be resolved before it tips this country over the edge.

We pride ourself as a nation of laws, so we need to make our government enforce those laws. Nobody should get a card to “pass Go” and get $200. President Trump is just trying to do his job and enforce and comply with current law.

If Congress doesn’t like it, then they need to get off their back ends and change the law. But we know that they won’t, because at the end of the day that is too much work for them.—Christopher Norfolk, Albuquerque, N.M.

Dennis Prager is absolutely right in discerning three leftist motivations for more immigration: votes, Marxist “class” unity, and self-gratification.

Related to reason No. 2 is another leftist motivation—deracination, that is, the cutting of America away from its roots. This is achieved by demonizing America’s past, by condemning national pride, and by massive, disparate immigration that floods the country with those who have absolutely no ties or association with our origins and historical values.

Once cut away from its roots, America can easily be pushed in any direction.—Ed Rosenblum, New York City

Why the Left Wants More and More Immigrants https://t.co/6de292Ixoq via @DennisPrager @DailySignal

— David Graves (@OGDoccat) February 3, 2018

In reference to the photo accompanying Dennis Prager’s commentary, those with signs stating “Make it clear: immigrants are welcome here” are totally correct. It is the illegal “immigrants” who are not “welcome here.”

If they don’t know the difference, they’re certainly not the kind of “immigrants” we do welcome here.—Ed Vanove

***

Americans I know, including myself, have no problems with immigration. The problem is with illegal immigrants.—Joseph Abraham, Barnabus, W.Va.

***

“Why the left wants more immigrants?” Votes.—Jerry Zacny

***

Honorable, honest, law-abiding immigrants are welcomed with arms wide open. Illegal immigrants are none of those; they crept in breaking the laws and for all the years they were here many did nothing but leech instead of right the wrong they committed.—Diane Janovyak

***

The way to solve this problem is take down the names of these advocates of illegal immigration and make each of them completely responsible for a family of illegal immigrants.

That way, nothing comes out of other taxpayers’ pockets. We’ll all know just how much these advocates will support illegal immigration once they’re held completely responsible for their advocacy.—Bob Shoemaker

Fixing the Immigration System

Dear Daily Signal: David Inserra and Paul Fredrick outline reasonable and relevant immigration reforms that Democrats should support with a renewal timeframe of five to 10 years (“These 3 Changes Would Drastically Improve Our Immigration System”). Our “open arms” immigration policy of the past was OK when we had a lot of land and resources to divide up 240 years ago.

President Trump’s DACA program must also be embraced by Democrats and Independents. When this serious reform is done, I will be pleased to give Trump credit for the art involved in this deal. He would certainly be making real progress for all Americans. No more “show and tell.”John Kominitsky, Los Osos, Calif.

***

I felt that any amnesty deal had to have strings to wait until the numbers of “Dreamers” went from 700,000 to well over a million. But I do think the proposed 12 years until actual citizenship and any criminal charges negating their chance is good. That will weed out the worst.Carole Rule, Tucson, Ariz.

***

I happen to speak Spanish and know many DACA “babies.” I am happy to see them turn on Nancy Pelosi. It reveals their true regard for Anglo people.

Because I am an octogenarian and walk with a cane, I have been intimidated and threatened several times in parking lots by these wonderful young children of illegal immigrants. I hope Nancy gets a clear picture of what they are: illegal immigrants demanding things they have not earned.

If President Trump chooses the welfare of the DACA “babies” over the welfare of our own legal citizens, then he will find his working-man base sorely eroded and deserve to go down in flames as a one-term president.—Nelle Verell, Meade, Kansas

In 8 years of Obama, Republican attorneys general sued 46 times. Democrats have already sued Trump 35 times in just 1 year. https://t.co/5KvjibkCEL via @FredLucasWH @DailySignal

— Rob Bluey (@RobertBluey) February 1, 2018

Democrats Take the Trump Administration to Court

Dear Daily Signal: The difference between the lawsuits against the Obama administration by Republican state attorneys general and the current round of Democrat AGs taking on the Trump administration, as reported by Fred Lucas, is simple: Republicans proved their cases, prevailing in many (“In 8 Years of Obama, GOP AGs Sued 46 Times. Democrats Already Sued Trump 35 Times”).

Even when Republican AGs didn’t, there were questions as to whether the courts were being pressured by other parties, i.e. the Supreme Court’s Obamacare “tax” ruling.

The Democrats have filed many cases in which they have not prevailed after the activist judges they work with have been overruled, leading many of their cases to be distractions and nuisances.Michael Jones, Frisco, Texas

***

The Democrats have always used the courts to get their way when out of power. This time they have reached new heights, or depths, depending upon your point of view. They will try to obstruct Trump every way possible.

Some of these court decisions appear frivolous. Shouldn’t federal judges be impeached for malpractice? Congress, where are you? I know, they’ve got a massive case of criminality in the leadership of the FBI and Justice Department to deal with first.Randy Leyendecker, Kerrville, Texas

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Don’t forget, these are our tax dollars these state attorneys general are wasting to take a political stand that at least half their constituents disagree with. It’s a protest using our money. Pauline Cornelius

***

Let’s see how these suits play out over time. For the most part, they seem frivolous and definitely not in the same league as those filed against the Obama administration.

The main problem is that there are too many progressive district judges who ignore the Constitution and rule only by their political agenda. They need to know that many of us can see through their shenanigans.Ken Marx

The GOP’s Coming Obamacare Capitulation https://t.co/J6f7hLKeCH pic.twitter.com/7EKdinaOfD

— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) February 6, 2018

Obamacare Looks Here to Stay

Dear Daily Signal: Any plan that pumps more money into the Affordable Care Act gets a thumbs down, like the one described in the commentary by Doug Badger, Marie Fishpaw, and Mike Needham (“The GOP’s Coming Obamacare Capitulation”). How long does it take for our leaders to understand there is no more money to throw away?Sam Spradling, Murfreesboro, Tenn.

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Where is the House Freedom Caucus on this? Why would the GOP have Susan Collins, the most liberal Republican member of the Senate, speak for them? Obamacare must go.Christopher Shea, Fairfield, Conn.

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Many of us saw this as a real problem with Obamacare, and tried to warn others. Now I believe that any and all money spent in trying to prop it up will be futile and wasted.Obie Batesmiller

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Word of wisdom: Democrats used only 51 votes to put this in, so use 51 votes to take it outJames Tucker

"Columbus didn't discover America, he invaded it!"
Yes, let's go back to the human sacrifice and cannibalism and continuous tribe warfare that existed when Columbus arrived.https://t.co/ze88QoigmM via @JarrettStepman @DailySignal

— TheGr8Librarian (@TheGr8Librarian) February 6, 2018

Gone With the Statues

Dear Daily Signal: Thank you for Jarrett Stepman’s commentary, “What We Lose When We Take Down Statues of Men Like Columbus.” He has perfectly illustrated what I’d like to say to those who insist on erasing or ignoring America’s history.

As they cite some of their objections, I chuckle inwardly as I can think of some modern-day leaders (loosely used description) who raise my eyebrows with their political antics. They will, as they should, remain part of our history. Hopefully, we will learn something from it.Lori Fisher

***

I’m sure Christopher Columbus never thought of anything like genocide or racism when he bumped into North America. He just wanted to get to India and find something worth bringing back to his queen to justify his trip.

I wonder if anyone has ever asked who the American Indians displaced when they arrived? Let us please look forward and not back. We can’t change what is history, even though some people rewrite it to suit themselves. We can, however, go forward with better and kinder attitudes, hopes, and dreams.Fay Butler, Baton Rouge, La.

***

I am so sad to see our country being torn apart by ignorance. Not one of the sign holders in the photo with Jarrett Stepman’s piece probably has tried to understand the real Columbus or what he did. They just go with the current steady stream of lies.

Columbus was truly a religious man, and he did not “invade” this country. No army, no permanent roots. He was a real sea navigator, doing the bidding of his sovereign, something none of these critics comprehend. The people who promote this trash have no real understanding or concern for their lack of facts.Linda Basinger, Idaho Falls, Idaho

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Columbus was a courageous hero who risked his life. In school, we used to respect Columbus and his act of bravery in sailing the unknown seas.Mary Alice Hall, San Jose, Calif.

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Funny. If Columbus had not “invaded” America, these people would not exist. Really, it might have been better if he had stayed there quietly.Giulianno Monteiro, São José dos Campos, Brazil

Heritage Foundation’s New President @KayColesJames Pledges to Reach ‘Americans Who Really Are Conservative but Just Don’t Know It Yet’ https://t.co/HJd1KgNRIK pic.twitter.com/dsN9JLoTZz

— The Daily Signal (@DailySignal) February 6, 2018

Making Sense to More Americans

Dear Daily Signal: Thank you for Ken McIntyre’s wonderful, encouraging article regarding Kay Coles James (“Heritage Foundation’s New President Pledges to Reach ‘Americans Who Are Conservative but Just  Don’t Know It Yet’”). It gives me new hope that, finally, our conservative principles will be clearly expressed as the best way for Americans to succeed in their pursuit of happiness.

Liberal, self-serving politicians attempt to convince others that our belief in limited “gobblement” (my term for ineffective, inefficient, bloated government) is selfish, uncompassionate, and greedy, when in fact the opposite is true.

It is my hope that Kay Coles James will articulate clearly that choosing the despair of government dependency is a dead-end bunny trail away from the joy of participation. Like water seeks the lowest level, uneducated minds can be convinced the liberal gobblement is the best way to happiness, when in truth it leads to the misery of dependency.

Or as President Reagan stated: “Government can’t solve the problems of society. Government is the problem.”

“Choose the Joy of Participation” should be conservatives’ clear message to those who have been convinced of the liberals’ mantra of “It’s for the poor, it’s for the uninsured, it’s for the immigrant, it’s for the children,” when in fact it’s for liberals’ own employment.

I will pray that Kay Coles James will be effective in bringing the conservative message to, as she says, “Americans who are really conservative but just don’t know it yet.”—Joseph Fronius

***

Wow, what a speech that must have been! Beautiful and determined, a real call to action by all of us who are conservative and who think conservative, but don’t yet realize it. The best to you, Ms. James, and thank you for taking on this new leadership.—Harry Evans, Oconomowoc, Wis.

***

Ten years ago, I sat on my back porch and talked politics with my son-in-law’s mother. We didn’t argue, I just talked about what I believed and she listened.

Then my son-in-law came by and listened for a minute. He said to her, “Mom, you have always been a conservative, you just vote for Democrats.”

When I saw her a couple of years ago, she mentioned the conversation and that she has voted conservative ever since, and thanked me for opening her eyes. Too many people think the media is reporting the truth and not their bias.—Douglas Crosby

 ***

At least 70 percent of Americans live like conservatives. If they ever discover that, it is over for the libs.—Ken Moore, Rio Rancho, N.M.

The Gun Industry’s Surprising Take on the Trump Administration https://t.co/YMYYMxq9nl via @Bromund @DailySignal

— nc2fl (@nc2fl2011) February 7, 2018

The President and the Second Amendment

Dear Daily Signal: About Ted Bromund’s commentary, “The Gun Industry’s Surprising Take on the Trump Administration,” I hope someone discovers the simple answer is self-policing.

Take politicians and bureaucrats out of the mix and fix the problem with the same verve as the NRA spokesperson who proclaimed the answer is for more people to be armed.Franz Holzer, Falls Church, Va.

***

What happened to the Second Amendment? The right to bear arms “shall not be infringed.” The National Instant Criminal Background Check is nothing more than a back-door way for the government to know who to look for when it’s time to confiscate firearms.Roger Fenton, Harrisburg, Pa.

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Unelected government (civil service) bureaucrats have no business making important decisions and running our government. It’s time the Senate stopped stonewalling on Trump’s appointments so we can get on with the business of governing this great nation.Bob Terrell

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The firearms industry, like all industries and all individuals and all economic life, must depend on the free market for stability and growth.Mike Kevitt, Simpsonville, S.C.

This and That

Dear Daily Signal: Count me in. Donald Trump is the best president we have had in many decades.

Sure, his tweets are troublesome, but I trust Trump like I have never trusted any American president in decades.

Trump is up against the most hateful press, politicians, and others, and yet is getting good accomplished for hardworking, loyal Americans. The left was bringing America to its knees, but because of courageous and wise leaders like Trump, we will make America great again.

By the way, I was once part of the left until another giant man, named Ronald Reagan, came along. Thank God.—Jerry Gennaro, Redondo Beach, Calif.

***

Michelle Malkin spends several paragraphs in her commentary attacking family and neighbors of David and Louise Turpin, but no time decrying the evils of the parents themselves (“Homeschooling Is Not a Crime”). This is horrible writing.

I am a homeschooling father of two sons, now successful adults. We ran a private school for homeschool families, so I have strong concern for freedom for parents in educating our children.

I am saddened, even perturbed, that The Daily Signal gave space to Malkin’s screed. Surely you can find someone who can defend homeschooling and still criticize the Turpins rather than their families and neighbors.—Robert Simpson

How Are We Doing?

Dear Daily Signal: What you guys are doing is absolutely great, and I plan to support your effort financially. So easy to read and get facts on the conservative end. And not just a blank check for the Republicans, either. They’re the best alternative party, but those who aren’t fiscally responsible need to be reeled in.—Wayne Harris

***

I was disappointed that The Daily Signal has not covered the treasonous visit of John Kerry with the Palestinian leader, where he told him to not have peace talks with President Trump.—Liz Damas

Chrissy Clark helped to compile this column.

Trump Praises ‘Incredible Job’ of Doctors, First Responders in Florida Hospital Visit - The Daily Signal

Trump Praises ‘Incredible Job’ of Doctors, First Responders in Florida Hospital Visit

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista / Ken McIntyre / Amber Randall /

President Donald Trump praised first responders and doctors who tried to save as many victims as possible from the shooting rampage at a high school during a surprise visit Friday to Broward Health North hospital in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Trump, who visited the hospital with first lady Melania Trump,  praised the speed with which law enforcement officers and other first responders reached Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, after the shots initially rang out Wednesday.

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“It’s very sad something like that could happen,” the president told reporters at the hospital. “But the job the doctors did, the nurses, the hospital, first responders, law enforcement—really incredible.

“The speed that they got the victims over to the hospital is like—[in] one case 20 minutes, in one case 19 minutes from the time of the shots,” he said. “It’s an incredible thing.”

The Trumps made the visit two days after former student Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire inside his old school, killing 17 and wounding 15 or more others.

Cruz, who confessed to police that he was the shooter,  is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

His lawyer said Friday that Cruz will agree to plead guilty in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

Broward County public defender Howard Finkelstein, in an interview with ABC News, said Cruz  is willing to plead guilty if he could serve life in prison instead.

A long, drawn-out trial wouldn’t help the community heal, Finkelstein said, adding that failures in the system led to Cruz’s  committing the horrific crime, though that doesn’t excuse his actions.

“The school system failed. The mental health system failed, … our social service agencies failed,” Finkelstein told ABC, adding:

Law enforcement failed, because every red flag was present. And the FBI apparently failed. And the security measures for somebody to buy guns failed. Every single system was ignorant or willfully blind. It seems to me that this kid was screaming for help in every which way—he was failed.

The FBI admitted it had failed to follow proper protocol after receiving a tip warning about Cruz’s potential behavior based on an online posting.

CNN obtained documents revealing police officers had gone to Cruz’s home 39 times since 2010 for calls regarding topics such as “mentally ill person,” “child/elderly abuse,” “domestic disturbance,” and “missing person.”

It remains uncertain whether Cruz  was the subject of those calls, CNN said, since many calls are described as resulting in “no written report.”

Cruz’s family had noticed some signs of depression after his adoptive mother died, a lawyer for the family said.

“Obviously, he’d lost his mom,” lawyer Jim Lewis said. “But they helped him get a job at a Dollar Tree store. They got him going to an adult education so he could try to get his GED and he seemed to be doing better.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Must-See Moments: Media Politicizes Florida School Shooting - The Daily Signal

Must-See Moments: Media Politicizes Florida School Shooting

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista / Ken McIntyre / Amber Randall / Video Team /

The Daily Signal’s Facebook Live show “Top 10” features the top news stories of the week—many of which went misreported by the mainstream media and some weren’t reported at all.

This week, the left was quick to politicize the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—we break down the misinformation from the media about gun control. And a story that went largely underreported: A California high school banned the national anthem from playing at school pep rallies.

Watch the video above for all of the stories that were either misreported or underreported.

4 Things to Know About Mueller’s Indictment of 13 Russians - The Daily Signal

4 Things to Know About Mueller’s Indictment of 13 Russians

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista / Ken McIntyre / Amber Randall / Video Team / Fred Lucas /

A federal grand jury Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies on charges of conspiring to interfere with America’s 2016 election.

“It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia,” @RealDonaldTrump says.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the presidential election is “ongoing,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press conference.

Information contained in the 37-page indictment, however, indicates that no U.S. citizen knowingly collaborated with the Russian conspirators.

Attorney General Jeff Session recused himself from matters related to the Russia probe because of his role in the Trump campaign. Rosenstein, his deputy, told reporters there is no evidence that what Russians did changed the outcome of the 2016 election.

“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” Rosenstein said. “We must not allow them to succeed.”

Here are four key points from the 37-page indictment from a grand jury in the District of Columbia.

1. The Question of  ‘Collusion’

President Donald Trump was quick to tweet after Rosenstein’s press conference that nothing ties his campaign to Russians:

Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later released a statement that said Trump “has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see the special counsel’s investigation further indicates—that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.”

The release by Sanders also included another statement from the president.

“It is more important than ever before to come together as Americans,” Trump said, adding:

We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.

Rosenstein said a Russian front company called the Internet Research Agency established a “translator project” in 2014 to focus on the U.S. population.

In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project. Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American political influence operations.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity,” Rosenstein said. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

At least not yet. Rosenstein added: “The special counsel’s investigation is ongoing.”

Last year, Mueller gained a guilty plea from Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived first national security adviser, as well as from campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, both for lying to investigators.

The special counsel also secured indictments of short-term Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Manafort associate Rick Gates for financial crimes seemingly unrelated to the Trump campaign.

2. Other Candidates Mentioned

One surprise to come out of the indictment is that the Russians sought to attack some candidates while pushing support for others, beyond Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in the general election.

The indictment says Russians sought to disparage not only Clinton but two Republican presidential contenders, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.

They also allegedly sought to rally support for the candidacies of Trump and Clinton’s main rival for Democrats’ nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

After the Nov. 8 election, the Russians staged protests both for and against President-elect Trump. Rosenstein said the defendants “organized one rally to support the president-elect and another rally to oppose him—both in New York, on the same day.”

3. Workings of an ‘Information Warfare’ Conspiracy

According to the indictment, the Russians and front companies conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

All but one of the 13 individual defendants worked for the Internet Research Agency LLC, a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. The indictment said the 13th individual, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates.

The alleged conspirators bought space on computer servers located in the United States, according to the indictment. They opened up hundreds of social media networks on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and made it appear the accounts were controlled by someone in the United States.

The defendants allegedly recruited and paid Americans to “engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies.”

Last September, after news reports that Mueller was investigating Russian operatives’ use of social media for election meddling, the indictment says, one defendant wrote: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity. … So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with my colleagues.”

4. The Criminal Charges

It’s not likely the Russian government will extradite any of the accused to stand trial in the United States, but the press release by the Justice Department summarizes the formal charges as:

Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud the United States by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet Research Agency and two individual defendants.

Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated identity theft by Internet Research Agency and four individuals.

FBI Failed to Investigate Florida Shooter Despite Long History of Concerning Behavior - The Daily Signal

FBI Failed to Investigate Florida Shooter Despite Long History of Concerning Behavior

Elizabeth Slattery / Ryan T. Anderson / Chuck Ross / Chris White / Richard Lim / Luke Rosiak / Julia Nista / Ken McIntyre / Amber Randall / Video Team / Fred Lucas / Amy Swearer /

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, news and social media once again lit up with calls to “do something” about gun violence.

Despite a general lack of basic details surrounding the tragedy, many immediately (and erroneously) blamed President Donald Trump and Republicans for failing to pass “commonsense gun control legislation.”

However, new information emerged Friday that appeared to indicate that both local and federal law enforcement agencies were aware of the shooter’s long history of concerning behaviors, and that the FBI might have prevented the shooting had it followed its own investigation protocols. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the FBI’s internal procedures.

Once again, it does not seem that a lack of adequate gun control laws is to blame for tragic gun deaths, but rather a failure to adequately enforce current gun laws and investigation protocols.

FBI Failed to Follow Protocol—Twice

Shortly after the shooting, media outlets began reporting that the FBI had previously received a tip in the fall from a YouTube poster about a troubling comment left on one of his videos. The commenter, whose username had the exact spelling of confessed Feb. 14 shooter Nikolas Cruz’s name, bragged about becoming “a professional school shooter.”

FBI Special Agent Robert Lasky confirmed that the FBI received this information, but told reporters that the agency was unable to verify the commenter’s identity at the time, and that the YouTube poster who complained about the comment lived in Mississippi with no connection to Broward County, Florida.

Lasky declined to explain why the bureau was not able to verify whether the author of the threatening comment used his real name, or whether he had any relation to the Florida shooter.

Earlier Friday, the FBI released a statement saying it received a call about the shooter through its tip line on Jan. 5. The caller left information detailing the shooter’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting.”

It appears this information was not forwarded to the Miami field office for investigation.

The FBI has since acknowledged that, under its own protocols, the tip should have been assessed as a potential threat to life, and investigative steps should have been taken. It determined that “these protocols were not followed for the information received by the [tip line] on January 5.”

This disclosure of the agency’s failure to effectively follow up—twice, no less—on information regarding the threat of violence is especially concerning in light of news reports that, the day before the Florida shooting, a grandmother in Everett, Washington, may have stopped a similar tragedy from occurring.

On Tuesday, Catherine Katsel-O’Connor called 911 after reading her 18-year-old grandson’s journal, which detailed violent sentiments and plans to commit a school shooting. She also found a semi-automatic rifle in his guitar case. The 18 year old was arrested later that day, and police claim he planned to kill his classmates with the rifle and homemade explosives.

It is quite possible that a similar follow-up investigation on the Florida shooter would have revealed some of the similar threats of violence left on his social media accounts.

Shooter Had No Criminal History

Along with the concerning behaviors reported to the FBI, it is becoming evident that the shooter had a long history of red flags.

Neighbors have shared numerous stories of the shooter being a “source of agitation,” including a time he allegedly smashed a trailer with a golf club out of anger. One neighbor noted that the shooter’s mother sometimes called the police to come and talk to him, and another neighbor told reporters that a police officer once had to stand at a particular intersection to ensure the shooter did not throw rocks at passing cars.

Several of the shooter’s peers have said he would joke about being the type of person to shoot up a school, and that he “threatened to bring guns to the school multiple times.” Anecdotes from other students indicate he posted on Instagram about killing animals, and multiple news outlets report that his social media footprint included threats to “die fighting” while “killing a [expletive] ton of people.”

Broward County schools Superintendent Robert Runcie confirmed that the shooter had recently been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for disciplinary reasons, and was enrolled elsewhere in the district. A math teacher at the school told reporters that he recalled receiving emails last year from the school about the shooter’s concerning behaviors.

Students have also reported he had been expelled for bringing knives to school, and that he may have exhibited stalking and violent behaviors toward his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.

Despite these numerous behavioral problems, it does not appear the shooter had any criminal convictions or mental health commitments that would have disqualified him from legally possessing a firearm.

Florida law, like that of all states and the federal government, prohibits citizens from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or a domestic violence misdemeanor. This includes people under the age of 24 who have been adjudicated in juvenile court for acts that would have constituted a felony if committed by an adult.

Although Broward County sheriff’s deputies were called to the shooter’s house 39 times since 2010, there are no reports that any of these police contacts resulted in his arrest or prosecution for a crime.

The law also bars possession of firearms by those who have been determined by a court to be mentally defective, or who have been involuntarily committed to mental health or drug treatment via a court order. The prohibition extends to voluntary commitment only under a very narrow set of circumstances where the person would have been involuntarily committed if he or she had not chosen treatment on their own.

It appears the shooter had voluntarily sought and received mental health treatment for a period of time, but stopped over a year ago. The nature of his treatment is unclear, but there is no judicial record indicating it would have prohibited his later purchase of a firearm.

Perhaps, in light of his disturbing behavior, he should have been involuntarily committed prior to the shooting. Had that happened, he would not have been able to purchase a firearm (at least not legally) and this tragedy might not have occurred.

Many jurisdictions do not consider voluntary mental health treatment to disqualify a person from purchasing firearms, largely because they do not want to discourage people from seeking help out of fear they will forfeit their Second Amendment rights.

Failure of Protocol and Prevention

There is little doubt that this shooting might have been prevented—not by the “commonsense gun laws” that some now advocate, but by “commonsense investigation” and “commonsense prevention” pursuant to laws already on the books.

The FBI had two different opportunities to follow up on serious threats to public safety, where even a cursory investigation would have revealed a deeply troubled individual with both the desire and capacity to carry out armed attacks on innocent people.

Despite years of apparently criminal behavior, including repeated exhibitions of violence toward others and dozens of contacts with local law enforcement, the shooter was apparently left without an official record that would indicate he should not possess a weapon.

This tragedy was not the result of lax gun laws. It was the result of repeated failures to act, despite consistent warnings that this individual posed a direct and substantial threat to public safety.

The answer is not new laws to restrict the rights of nonviolent, law-abiding citizens. The answer is start taking obvious threats seriously under the mechanisms already afforded by the law.