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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

July 21, 2017
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White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer already has a name in mind for the chapter of his life that he spent serving under President Trump. In an interview with The Washington Post on Friday, the day he submitted his resignation, Spicer suggested he'd call this particular chapter that's coming to a close "Exciting Times." "Hopefully we're midway through the book of my life," Spicer said, when asked what he'll do once he leaves in August.

Though Spicer may have made some ill-advised comparisons to Adolf Hitler and hid in the bushes during his 182-day-long tenure, he insisted Friday that he has no regrets. He claimed he's stepping aside because the president "wanted to bring on some folks"; The New York Times reported Spicer stepped down because he "vehemently disagreed with the appointment" of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. "[It was] better to give them an opportunity to have a clean slate and evaluate what we've done. To figure out what's working and what needs to be improved upon," Spicer said.

Spicer didn't offer any specifics on what he'll do next, though he said he's "sure there will be plenty of opportunities." Becca Stanek

July 21, 2017
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Ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has a new consulting firm: Resilient Patriot, LLC. In his post-Trump administration venture, Flynn will advise private equity firms on potential deals. Though Resilient Patriot is the name Flynn's son — who posted about the Pizzagate conspiracy theory — used on Twitter, Flynn's son will not be involved.

Flynn's brother told The Associated Press that while there's still a "cloud over" his brother, he is "moving on with his life" since he resigned in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. "I think he's not worried about going to jail or anything like that," Flynn's brother said.

Flynn is being looked at as part of the ongoing investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Flynn, who didn't register as a foreign agent until after he resigned, also failed to disclose income from three Russia-linked firms. Becca Stanek

July 21, 2017
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Accused al Qaeda recruiter Ali Charaf Damache is scheduled to face a civilian trial Friday in Philadelphia, breaking with President Trump's campaign promise to fill Guantánamo Bay with "bad dudes." Hardliners, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have traditionally criticized the prosecution of suspected terrorists on American soil, with Sessions in particular claiming such suspects "do not deserve the same legal rights as common criminals and that such trials were too dangerous to hold on American soil," The New York Times writes. "With Mr. Damache's transfer, Mr. Sessions has adopted a strategy that he vehemently opposed when it was carried out under President Barack Obama."

An Algerian and Irish citizen, Damache was transferred to the U.S. from Spain and is suspected of plotting a failed attempt to kill a Swedish cartoonist who drew the Prophet Muhammad with a dog's body. Damache is also believed to have worked as a recruiter for al Qaeda.

"For years, Republicans portrayed civilian trials as a weakness in Mr. Obama's national security policy," the Times writes, adding: "Mr. Damache's transfer represents a collision of the Trump administration's tough rhetoric and the reality of fighting terrorism in 2017." Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

July 21, 2017
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Rompers for men are "nowhere near new," but they may never have a moment like they did earlier this year. Decades after James Bond rocked a similar one-piece on screen, a garment called the RompHim divided the nation when it made its first social-media appearance in May, and by the time its creators started shipping to customers, "a slew" of knockoffs were trawling for startup funding on Kickstarter, most of them failing to repeat the RompHim's success. But one company, Getonfleek, went wild with the concept, churning out scores of outré variations. The top seller? This tribute to Kim Jong Un ($100). The Week Staff

July 21, 2017

Hours after he issued his resignation Friday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that it's "been an honor and a privilege to serve" under President Trump. Spicer said that he will step down from his role in August:

Spicer's resignation was announced shortly after it was confirmed that Trump had offered Anthony Scaramucci the role of communications director. The New York Times reported that Spicer "vehemently disagreed" with the appointment of the Wall Street financier. Trump reportedly asked Spicer to stay on, but Spicer declined.

The Associated Press reported that Spicer said after his resignation that he thinks the White House "could benefit from a clean slate." Becca Stanek

July 21, 2017
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Anthony Scaramucci, President Trump's newly hired communications director, is on the books as having donated a nice chunk of change to former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in 2008. FEC donor records indicate the Wall Street financier gave $2,300 to Obama for America on May 31, 2008, the Chicago Sun-Times' Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet reported.

Now, Trump himself has also donated to Democrats, including to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But on top of Scaramucci's donation, the new communications director has also made some less-than-complimentary comments about his new boss. In an August 2015 appearance on Fox Business, Scaramucci called Trump a "hack politician" and "an inherited money dude from Queens County."

The president's staff wasn't exactly on board with his decision to hire Scaramucci either: Scaramucci's hiring was apparently the impetus for White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's resignation Friday. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon also reportedly weren't thrilled. Becca Stanek

July 21, 2017

On Friday, just after President Trump offered Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci the position of White House communications director, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in protest. Spicer apparently ardently disagreed with Scaramucci's hiring and believed he could not do the job, NBC News' Katy Tur reports.

But perhaps it is more surprising Scaramucci wanted the job in the first place, given the way he talked about then-candidate Trump in an August 2015 appearance on Fox Business. "He's a hack politician," Scaramucci declared. "I'll tell you who he's gonna be president of, you can tell Donald I said this: the Queens County Bullies Association."

Scaramucci further hammered Trump on his outer borough roots. "You're an inherited money dude from Queens County," Scaramucci said, seizing on the president's notorious insecurity about fitting in with the Manhattan elite when he was a real estate mogul. Scaramucci also knocked Trump for "the way he talks about women" and for his "big mouth."

Now, Scaramucci will be in charge of massaging the messaging that comes from that "big mouth." Watch his appearance below. Kimberly Alters

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