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January 5, 2016

On Monday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement criticizing the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, by more than a dozen armed militants:

While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. [LDS]

The apparent leader of the Malheur occupation, Ammon Bundy, said in a video posted Friday that God had told him to take a stand for now-jailed ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond and against the federal government's public lands policies. After praying, "I began to understand how the Lord felt about Harney County and about this country, and I clearly understood that the Lord was not pleased with what was happening to the Hammonds," Bundy said. The Bundy clan — including father Cliven Bundy — is Mormon, and has a long history of land conflicts with the federal government, dating back to at least great-great-grandfather Abraham Bundy, according to OPB.

And Mormonism also has a long, sometimes bloody history of standoffs with the government, mostly resolved since the mid-20th century but still alive in the rural West, among families like the Bundys. "The Oregon standoff isn't a 'Mormon movement,' but it does ultimately represent the mixing of Mormon themes, common Western land use issues, and the rhetoric of far-right patriot groups," explains BuzzFeed's Jim Dalrymple. You can read more about Mormonism and the Oregon standoff at BuzzFeed, OBP, and The Oregonian, but a few points seem worth highlighting.

First, the Mormon Church considers the U.S. Constitution divinely inspired — a point Cliven Bundy has used to equate the Constitution with scripture — so when the Bundy militia talks about defending their understanding of the Constitution, they are very consciously mixing church and state. Second, Captain Moroni is a figure from the Book of Mormon famous for standing up for liberty against a corrupt king in about 100 B.C., and he has also become an icon for some anti-government extremists in the modern West. Which explains why this guy is in Oregon:

Mormon scripture, BuzzFeed's Dalrymple notes, explicitly pledges fealty to "being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." Peter Weber

1:15 a.m. ET

"Let's talk about the facts tonight, the facts about this White House and those close to it and ties to Russia," CNN's Anderson Cooper said Tuesday night. "We want to show you a flow chart just so everybody can follow along, because it's confusing." Even after he runs down the verified connections between Russian interests and Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jeff Sessions, Michael Cohen, and Roger Stone, you may still be scratching your head and noticing that there's a lot of smoke but no raging fire.

Cooper agrees. "So those are some facts. There are a lot more," he said. "The ones we listed, they might be legal, they might be totally legal connections, or nefarious — we don't know in some cases. But we do know they exist." Stay tuned, presumably. Peter Weber

12:53 a.m. ET

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air aired its final episode 21 years ago, but the bond between the cast members remains strong.

Always amazing to spend an afternoon with my Fresh Prince family. Wishing that James Avery was still with us to make this complete.

A post shared by Alfonso Ribeiro (@therealalfonsoribeiro) on

Alfonso Ribeiro shared a photo on Instagram of himself alongside former co-stars Tatyana Ali, Karyn Parsons, Will Smith, Daphne Maxwell-Reid, and Joseph Marcell. "Always amazing to spend an afternoon with my Fresh Prince family," Ribeiro wrote. "Wishing that James Avery was still with us to make this complete." Avery, who played patriarch Philip Banks on the show, died in 2013.

There were a few faces missing in the photo — notably DJ Jazzy Jeff, who portrayed Smith's best friend and was often seen being chucked out of the Banks' home by Uncle Phil, and Ross Bagley, who played Nicky, the youngest member of the Banks family — but this photo evoked enough nostalgia to make even the most casual fan break out into the Carlton Dance. Catherine Garcia

12:39 a.m. ET

If you watched Fox News' prime-time shows on Tuesday night, you saw Sean Hannity discussing Hillary Clinton and uranium — as requested by President Trump; Bill O'Reilly criticizing Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), whom he apologized to earlier in the day for making fun of her hair; and Tucker Carlson complaining about how Democrats are being mean to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). If you watched Shepard Smith Reporting on Tuesday afternoon, you heard about Nunes, too, but in a pretty different context.

Smith was discussing reports that the White House had tried to severely limit the Trump-Russia testimony of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, whose scheduled hearing on Tuesday in front of the House Intelligence Committee was canceled by Nunes hours after Yates' lawyer informed the White House that Yates did not plan to restrict her testimony unless the White House publicly demanded it.

"The Washington Post newspaper broke the story, and Fox News now confirms the Justice Department sent a warning to the former acting attorney general, Sally Yates," Smith said. "Fox News obtained the letters showing the department told Yates earlier this month that she could not discuss a great deal of her possible testimony without permission from the White House." Smith duly noted the Trump administration's denial: "The White House calls The Washington Post's reporting 'entirely false.' It also says it has no problems with her testifying. That hearing was tentatively planned for today."

"It's all very complicated," Smith said, and that at least seems indisputable. Nunes went to the White House late March 21 to view some classified documents, then said the next day he's seen proof that Trump transition communications had incidentally and legally been swept up in surveillance of foreign subjects, briefed Trump, and still hasn't shared the material with his colleagues. He is now facing bipartisan calls for him to share his material with his colleagues or step down; on Tuesday he told ABC News that he "will never reveal sources and methods," not even with fellow Intelligence Committee members.

Nunes was a member of the Trump transition team. You can read a helpful timeline of his involvement in Trump's widely dismissed wiretapping claims at Axios. Peter Weber

March 28, 2017
Eric Kayne/Getty Images

Prosecutors in California say two anti-abortion activists invaded the privacy of 14 medical providers by secretly filming them during meetings.

David Daleiden of Davis, California, and Sandra Merritt of San Jose, who run the Center for Medical Progress in Irvine, California, made undercover films of themselves attempting to purchase fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood, prosecutors said, filming 14 people in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and El Dorado counties from October 2013 to July 2015. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Daleiden and Merritt made up a fake bioresearch company to use as a ruse in order to set up meetings with the providers, and they have been charged with 15 felonies.

In January 2016, Daleiden and Merritt were indicted on similar charges in Texas. A grand jury had been convened to investigate Planned Parenthood, but after it found that the organization hadn't done anything wrong, the grand jury indicted Daleiden and Merritt; in July, the charges were dropped when prosecutors decided the grand jury overstepped its authority. Daleiden told The Associated Press in an email Tuesday night the charges are "bogus." Catherine Garcia

March 28, 2017

Seth Meyers is trying to get to the bottom of the latest Washington mystery: Is Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) — the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a former member of President Trump's transition team, and someone who "looks like every guy you don't remember meeting" — investigating Trump or working with him? 


On Tuesday's Late Night, Meyers went over Nunes' past week, which involved him claiming to have seen evidence that communications involving people close to Trump were accidentally picked up by surveillance, telling Trump about it at the White House, and not sharing the information with his fellow committee members. Since his first solo press conference, additional bizarre details have come to light, like Nunes receiving a mysterious message while in a car with a staffer, then bailing for an Uber and vanishing into the night, leading Meyers to declare, "This whole thing is starting to turn into an episode of Dateline."

The public doesn't know what evidence was so explosive Nunes had to ditch one moving vehicle for another, but CNN reported that a Republican briefed on what Nunes has seen said it's "almost like the kind of trivia you would pick up" during a casual conversation, like where Trump was having dinner. "Nunes has been running around D.C. like he's James Bond just to find out where Trump had dinner? That surveillance feed must have been pretty boring," Meyers said, before slipping into his Trump-at-a-KFC impersonation: "'I'll have the 12-piece bucket, extra crispy, in fact it should be the same color as my skin. Thank you. I hope this isn't being tapped.'" Watch the video below, but be warned: It will probably leave you with more questions than answers. Catherine Garcia

March 28, 2017
istock

While driving toward a tornado Tuesday afternoon near Lubbock, Texas, three storm chasers were killed when their SUV ran a stop sign and hit another car.

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Gonzalez told CBS Dallas the storm had nothing to do with the accident; the vehicle collided with a Jeep, and all three storm chasers were pronounced dead at the scene. "We would encourage anyone driving down these remote roads to slow down and pay attention to traffic signs, especially in inclement weather," Gonzalez said. "It can become dangerous for all involved." Catherine Garcia

March 28, 2017
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The House voted Tuesday 215-205 on a measure that repeals new Federal Communications Commission regulations that would have required high-speed internet service providers get customer approval before sharing and using such personal information as their browsing history and app usage.

The rules were approved by the FCC in October, on a 3-2 party line vote. The broadband companies and Republicans argued that websites and social networks that collect information on customers and use it to place targeted ads are not subject to strict rules, while supporters — including Democrats and privacy advocates — said they are worried about what data the ISPs will collect without permission. The Senate voted to repeal the measure last week, and President Trump is expected to sign it. Catherine Garcia

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