Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state with a long history of pushing a stridently conservative agenda on voting rights and immigration, is back in the news again -- this time, for the actions of one of his former underlings.
Late last month, Kobach was granted permission by the newly-appointed executive director of a federal voting commission to require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The decision -- issued unilaterally by Brian Newby, who previously worked under Kobach as an elections official in Kansas' largest county -- was a major surprise that was done without the say of the members of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC), which had rejected Kobach's request for the change twice before.
The revised EAC guidance represented a major win for Kobach, who had been stymied by the courts in his efforts to fully implement his state's proof-of-citizenship requirement. It is a blow to voting rights advocates who have opposed proof of citizenship requirements on the grounds that procuring the necessary documents will make ballot access harder people who are perfectly eligible to vote.
The weeks-long occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in rural Oregon by anti-government extremists could have ended in a variety of ways -- the most worrisome of which is the way of Waco or Ruby Ridge: violently. But Thursday the FBI was able to convince the remaining four occupiers to leave the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge voluntarily, a conclusion that one expert on anti-government extremism praised as a "nonviolent coda" that reduces the likelihood that sympathizers will seek retribution.
Michele Fiore, a Nevada lawmaker known more for her sidearm-adorned holiday photos and bombastic statements about wanting to shoot refugees than for her tactful negotiation, emerged as an unexpected voice of reason Wednesday night at the Oregon militia standoff.
More than a month since a group of anti-government extremists took over a federal wildlife refuge in rural Oregon and nearly nearly two weeks since the authorities arrested most of the group's leaders in a dramatic confrontation that left one of the occupier's dead, the standoff drags on with no end in sight.
Hopes that arrests of the ringleaders would lead to a quick and peaceful resolution to the ongoing takeover have diminished as the holdouts still at the refuge dig in and the occupier who was killed, LaVoy Finicum, has been elevated as a martyr in extremist circles. The remaining diehards at the Malheur National Wildlife Center have re-dubbed it "Camp Finicum."
National attention on the standoff has waned since Finicum's death, but things have continued to get weirder. Franklin Graham, the minister, has gotten involved at some level to try to bring an end to the standoff. Ammon Bundy, the main leader who is now jailed in Portland, reportedly in solitary confinement, has been making regular statements to the public via recorded messages released by his lawyers, and police have tightened the cordon around the refuge even as the handful of militants holed up inside have sounded the call for their supporters on the outside to "stand up" in their defense.
Here's what has happened since Ammon Bundy and brigade were arrested last month:
A federal grand jury in Portland has indicted Ammon Bundy and 15 other anti-government protestors who took over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, according to an indictment filed Wednesday and made public Thursday. The occupiers were each indicted on a single count of conspiracy to impede officers of the United States.
In addition to the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that began Jan. 2, the indictment also alleges some of the occupiers made threats against federal officials last year.
The family of an Oregon occupier who was killed in an encounter with law enforcement last month is now accusing the government of engaging in a "cover-up" of the man's "unjustified" death," The Oregonian reported.
LaVoy Finicum's family released a statement Tuesday claiming new information from another standoff leader -- who was at the scene of Finicum's death and has since been released from federal custody -- led them to believe that the FBI and the Oregon State Police are "seeking to manipulate and mislead the media and the American public about what really happened."
The founder of a white nationalist super PAC that launched a robocall campaign for Donald Trump in Iowa is undeterred by his favored candidate's second-place finish, and plans to move forward with another robocall campaign to get out the vote for Trump in New Hampshire.
The FBI has released the entire 26-minute video of the final moments of Arizona rancher and Oregon standoff leader LaVoy Finicum's life during their attempt to arrest him earlier this week.
In the days following his death, Finicum had become a martyr for anti-government extremists.
Greg Bretzing, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said the video was released to settle questions surrounding Finicum's death.
"We know there are various versions of what has happened out in the public domain. Most of them inaccurate. Some of them inflammatory."
The following is the FBI's recounting of what appears in the video that they showed at the press conference. Video released by the FBI is embedded below. The pursuit of Finicum begins around the eight-minute mark.
In the beginning, two vehicles–a Jeep and a white truck–move along the Eastern Oregon road. Finicum is driving the truck. The Jeep is pulled over and the driver (who the FBI did not charge and whose name was not released) gets out along with Ammon Bundy and Brian Cavalier who were arrested without incident, according to the FBI.
At some point roughly 4 minutes later, in a moment that is obscured in the video by foliage, Ryan Payne gets out of the truck through the backdoor. He puts his hand up, is approached by officers and is taken into custody. Then, the truck continues to sit on the road for more than three minutes as the FBI says law enforcement agents give “verbal commands” to the individuals left in the truck.
At that point, Finicum takes off “at a high rate of speed.” The truck traveled some distance before it encounters a law enforcement roadblock. As Finicum approaches those barriers, there is a “spike strip across the road,” but the FBI explains that he seemed to have circumvented it as he drove around the roadblock.
“He nearly hits an FBI agent as he maneuvers to the left,” the FBI explained just before they showed the video.
Then, Finicum’s truck gets caught in a snow bank. He gets out of the vehicle. He moves through the snow.
On two occasions, the FBI says that Finicum reaches his right hand toward “a pocket on the left inside pocket of his jacket” where police eventually found a loaded 9mm semi-automatic handgun.
Then, Finicum is shot by Oregon State Police. The FBI did not say how many times, but did comment it was in the single digits.
After Oregon State Police shot Finicum, the FBI says that the area was secured with "flash bangs" and later, "sponge projectiles" in an effort to "disorient" any other individuals who were armed. Shawna Cox, Ryan Bundy and another unnamed individual were taken from the car. Cox and Bundy were arrested.
“We feel it is necessary to show the whole thing unedited in the interest of transparency,” Gretzing says.
A routine shooting investigation is still ongoing.
The FBI has narrowed the containment zones around the refuge in an effort to make life easier for residents in the county.
The FBI believes there are still four individuals holed up at the Wildlife Refuge. And negotiators are “working around the clock” to find a way to end the nearly 4-week occupation.
In the hours following Finicum’s death, law enforcement agents set up checkpoints surrounding the refuge. The FBI said Thursday that since those barriers were set up, nine individuals left the refuge. Six were released and three were arrested by the FBI.
The lawyers representing Ammon Bundy reiterated the call from Bundy -- who was arrested Tuesday -- for the remaining occupiers to leave the Malheur wildlife refuge in Oregon at a press conference Thursday.
The attorneys promised those still at the Oregon refuge center that they can use the courts and the political system for "phase 2" of their movement.
"Phase 1 of this protest needs to come to an end," Bundy's attorney Michael Arnold said.