An avowed white supremacist was charged this week with plotting to firebomb a synagogue or gay bar in downtown Las Vegas. Prosecutors say Conor Climo, 23, used racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic slurs on an encrypted online message board with white supremacist “lone wolves” who’d pledged to commit acts of terror and violence. FBI agents searched the home of Climo, who worked as a security guard, finding bomb-making materials, an AR-15 assault-style weapon, and a bolt-action rifle. Climo’s arrest came after he discussed plans to build a “self-contained Molotov” cocktail with an undercover agent and an FBI informant, saying, “I’m more interested in action than online s---.” In 2016, Climo drew headlines when he patrolled his neighborhood in battle gear while carrying an assault rifle, a knife, and four ammunition magazines. He’d broken no laws in the open-carry state.
A five-day manhunt for escaped prisoner Curtis Ray Watson ended this week after Watson emerged from a soybean field and surrendered to authorities. He was nabbed 10 miles from the West Tennessee State Penitentiary. Watson broke out on his 44th birthday, then is alleged to have sexually assaulted and strangled to death prison administrator Debra Kaye Johnson, 64, in her home. Watson, serving a 15-year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and child abuse, had “trusty” status that gave him access to prison equipment for his work assignment mowing lawns. After he escaped on a tractor, authorities fielded 430 tips before a security system alerted Harvey and Ann Taylor to surveillance footage of Watson rummaging through their outdoor refrigerator. Covered in mosquito and tick bites, a captured Watson looked “relieved to be over with his run,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch said. “He knew he wasn’t getting away.”
Prosecutors charged Justin Olsen this week with threatening to assault a federal officer after the 18-year-old praised mass shootings and endorsed attacks on Planned Parenthood. After months of monitoring Olsen, who amassed an online following posting as “ArmyOfChrist,” the FBI says it rushed to arrest him after recent shootings. Agents searched his father’s home, where Olsen lives, finding 300 rounds of ammunition on a stairway and thousands more in a “gun vault” in his father’s room, along with about 15 rifles and shotguns and 10 semi-automatic pistols. “Don’t comply with gun laws, stock up on stuff they could ban,” Olsen allegedly wrote on online message boards. He praised the Oklahoma City bombing and said the lesson of the deadly 1993 siege in Waco, Texas, was “shoot every federal agent on sight.” Olsen says his posts were “hyperbolic” and “only a joke.”
Congressional Democrats raced to advance several gun control measures this week, prioritizing universal background checks for gun sales—a move President Trump endorses. The proposal, which already passed the House, would close a loophole by requiring private gun sellers, not just licensed dealers, to screen buyers for criminal records, mental illness, and other factors that would bar them from gun ownership. Trump says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “wants to do background checks,” adding, “I think a lot of Republicans do.” Yet McConnell has been noncommittal on gun reform measures and did not agree to hold a vote on the House bill when the Senate returns from a six-week recess. Democrats have also proposed “red flag” laws, restricting high-capacity magazines, and banning assault weapons—the last of which has support from nearly 200 House Democrats, but faces strong Republican opposition.
The Mooch defects
New York City
President Trump lost a loyal defender this week, after former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci withdrew support for Trump’s re-election bid, saying the president has gone “off the rails.” Fired in 2017 for a profanity-filled interview after 11 days at the White House, Scaramucci remained a reliable Trump advocate on TV. Yet the New York–based investor said Trump’s graceless visits with shooting survivors in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio—along with his taunt that four women of color in Congress should “go back” where they came from—went too far. “Honest people in the room know that he is crazy,” he said, suggesting the GOP consider another nominee. Scaramucci, Trump replied on Twitter, “is only upset that I didn’t want him back in the Administration (where he desperately wanted to be).” “You are losing your fastball—very weak troll,” Scaramucci countered. “Time to call in a good relief pitcher.”
The Trump administration this week issued new rules that weaken the Endangered Species Act, clearing the way for drilling and development in habitats of protected species. For the first time, regulators will be allowed to make economic assessments when deciding whether species warrant protection, a victory for industries that say the landmark 1973 law is too onerous. The changes make it easier to remove species from the endangered list and reduce protections for threatened species, while making it harder to protect wildlife from threats posed by climate change: Federal officials have used climate models to anticipate habitat losses for polar bears as far as 2090, but the new rules limit impact predictions to the “foreseeable future.” Several states promised lawsuits. The changes focus on the law’s “ultimate goal—recovery of our rarest species,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and gas lobbyist, said. ■