April 23, 2018

Linus Phillip was killed by police in Largo, Florida, in March after he attempted to drive away from officers who wanted to search his car at a gas station because they said they smelled marijuana. The officers involved in the fatal shooting will not be prosecuted, but the Largo police are continuing a controversial post-mortem investigation on Phillip.

Two officers went unannounced to the funeral home where Phillip's body was located and used his finger in an attempt to unlock his cell phone. They did not notify his family in advance, nor did they obtain a warrant.

The Supreme Court has held that police cannot search a cell phone without a warrant, but the situation is legally complicated when the phone's owner is dead. "While the deceased person doesn't have a vested interest in the remains of their body, the family sure does, so it really doesn't pass the smell test," Charles Rose, a Stetson University law professor, told the Tampa Bay Times. "This is one of those set of factors that walks on the edge of every issue."

Phillip's fiancée, Victoria Armstrong, happened to be at the funeral home when the detectives arrived. "I just felt so disrespected and violated," she said of their surprise appearance. Armstrong has called for further investigation of Phillip's death, particularly because the police have reported differing quantities of drugs they say were in his vehicle. "There's so many parts of the case that still aren't adding up," she said to the Tampa Bay Times. "I just want the truth." Bonnie Kristian

April 2, 2018

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are lampooning new security measures that require them to use clear backpacks. The rule change took effect Monday as students returned to campus after spring break.

The school, located in Parkland, Florida, implemented the measure after 17 people were killed there in a shooting in February. Students and staff members are also being issued identification badges to be worn at all times, BuzzFeed News reports. Stoneman Douglas families were informed of the new rules in a letter from superintendent of Broward County Public Schools Robert Runcie, The New York Times reported last month.

The district is also considering "using metal-detecting wands and installing permanent metal detectors," BuzzFeed News reported last month. The New York Times described the new rules as "reminiscent of security measures at airports and professional sports venues."

Stoneman Douglas students voiced their criticism of the rule — along with a healthy dose of sarcasm — Monday on Twitter.

The backpack and identification rules were announced days after the suspected shooter's brother trespassed on school property and two Stoneman Douglas students were arrested for bringing knives to school, BuzzFeed News noted. Mary Catalfamo

February 2, 2018

In a segment Friday, CNN's Jake Tapper confronted Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) over his choice of State of the Union guests.

"You brought to the State of the Union … somebody who is a fairly notorious racist and Holocaust denier," Tapper said, referring to alt-right personality Chuck Johnson. Gaetz confirmed to The Daily Beast earlier this week that Johnson attended President Trump's address with a ticket from his office.

Tapper invited Gaetz to explain his decision-making. In response, Gaetz said, "I would refer folks to the statement of the individual that attended, saying he is not a denier of the Holocaust, not a white supremacist." The Florida congressman also noted that Johnson claims to give money to organizations that "actually go and hunt down Nazis living double lives."

"I don't agree with everything Mr. Johnson says," Gaetz insisted. "But I think that when ... we only talk to audiences or people that agree with us, I think we end up in a myopic state of politics."

Tapper did not press Gaetz on his response, ending the interview moments later. Shortly thereafter, however, he did tag Gaetz in a tweet linking to an old post Johnson wrote on Reddit, where he claimed that less than a million Jews died in the Holocaust and said "the Allied bombings of Germany were a war crime." Kelly O'Meara Morales

September 9, 2017

If you're a White House staffer who has gotten on President Trump's bad side, you'll know when he stops looking you in the eye.

So reports The New York Times in a Friday article addressing Trump's present displeasure with White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, who publicly criticized Trump's responses to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia:

[White House Chief of Staff John] Kelly made a point, one staff member said, of throwing his arm around Mr. Cohn in solidarity, in full view of the news media, as they exited Marine One last week on the South Lawn.

But he has not always been successful. Several aides said Mr. Trump is freezing out Mr. Cohn by employing a familiar tactic: refusing to make eye contact with Mr. Cohn when his adviser greets him. [The New York Times]

Cohn was supposed to lead an infrastructure meeting at the White House on Thursday, the Times adds, and Kelly announced as much at the start of the gathering of White House officials and state and federal lawmakers. That plan was stymied when Trump, "whose most cutting insult is to pretend someone does not exist or that he barely knows them, virtually ignored" Cohn throughout the talks. Read the rest of the Times story here. Bonnie Kristian

July 4, 2017

When the Supreme Court approved a modified version of President Trump's much-challenged travel ban last week, it provided the order could not be used to exclude visitors from the affected Muslim-majority countries if they have "bona fide relationships" with people already in the United States. Now at issue is what counts as "bona fide relationships," a category SCOTUS did not specifically define and which the White House says does not include grandparents, aunts, and uncles of American citizens and residents.

The Department of Justice was in court Monday fighting to maintain that delineation, arguing the SCOTUS ruling should not be interpreted to allow "the broader, free-hand rules" of letting in grandparents. Pointing to established immigration law, the DOJ says close family relations that meet the Supreme Court's exemption are limited to "parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, fiancé, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling (whether whole or half), and step relationships." Not on the list: grandparents.

How that definition will fare in court remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it is under fire on social media.

A #GrandparentsNotTerrorists hashtag sees U.S. residents with family ties in the six banned countries posting photos of their unthreatening grandparents in a plea for change. Bonnie Kristian

June 29, 2017

In a statement released through a spokesperson, first lady Melania Trump stood by her husband Thursday morning after he hurled sexist insults at a woman on Twitter. Responding to President Trump's tweets calling Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski "low I.Q." and "crazy" and claiming she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when he rejected her company at his Mar-a-Lago resort, Melania reiterated that her husband just can't help but punch back when he's "attacked."

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," the first lady's spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

Ironically, Melania has taken up cyberbullying as one of her causes as first lady. Though she's declared "it is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked," it's apparently okay when a woman is attacked by her 71-year-old husband. Becca Stanek

June 12, 2017
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's supporters are nearly evenly split on whether it's "appropriate" for a politician to body-slam a journalist, a Public Policy Polling survey released Monday revealed. While 45 percent of Trump supporters said that it was not acceptable for a politician to use physical force against a reporter, 42 percent said it was.

The poll was released on the day incoming Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte (Mont.) was sentenced to 20 hours of "anger management" after he pleaded guilty to body-slamming a Guardian reporter. Gianforte will not serve jail time, though he will also have to perform 40 hours of community service.

Overall, the poll found that 22 percent of voters said it was okay to body-slam a reporter, while 69 percent said it was not.

The poll was conducted among 811 registered voters between June 9-11. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3.4 percent. Becca Stanek

June 3, 2017

Comedian Bill Maher used a racial slur while interviewing Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) Friday evening on his HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher. Maher said he should visit the senator's home state of Nebraska more often. "You're welcome," Sasse replied. "We'd love to have you work in the fields with us." Maher answered: "Work in the fields? Senator, I'm a house n****r. No, it's a joke."

Maher soon came under broad criticism online, including calls for his resignation.

Sasse said Saturday he should have challenged Maher instead of responding with silence to a word that is "an attack on universal human dignity." Defending free speech "comes with a responsibility to speak up when folks use that word," he wrote on Twitter. "Me just cringing last night wasn't good enough." Bonnie Kristian

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