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Grief and anger as Florida prepares to bury victims of school massacre

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As families prepared on Friday to bury victims of another U.S. mass shooting, grief mixed with anger amid signs of possible lapses in school security and indications that law enforcement may have missed clues about the suspected gunman’s plans.

One distraught mother who said she had just spent two hours making funeral preparations for her 14-year-old child expressed disbelief that a gunman could just stroll into school and open fire, and she appealed to President Donald Trump to take action.

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Nikolas Cruz, 19, identified as a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who had been expelled for disciplinary problems, walked into the school on Wednesday and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 students and facility members and injuring 15 others, police said.

The shooting has raised questions among anguished parents about the adequacy of school security measures and renewed a national debate on Capitol Hill and elsewhere about the epidemic of gun violence in American schools.

“How do we allow a gunman to come into our children’s school? How did they get through security? What security is there?” Lori Alhadeff shouted into the camera in an emotionally raw appearance on CNN.

“The gunman, the crazy person, just walks right into the school, knocks down the window to my child’s door and starts shooting, shooting her …,” cried Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was among the dead.

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Cruz, charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, made a brief initial court appearance on Thursday, in which he was ordered held without bond.

“He’s a broken human being,” his lawyer, public defender Melissa McNeill, told reporters. “He’s sad, he’s mournful, he’s remorseful.”

“PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL SHOOTER”

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Cruz may have foreshadowed the attack in a comment on YouTube, investigated by the FBI. The Federal Bureau of Investigation disclosed it received a tip in September about the message that read: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” by a user named Nikolas Cruz.

However, FBI agents had no information pointing to the “time, location or true identity” of the person behind the message, Robert Lasky, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Jacksonville office, told reporters.

YouTube ultimately removed the material in question, and the FBI’s inquiry was dropped until the name Nikolas Cruz surfaced again in connection with Wednesday’s massacre.

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Authorities say Cruz, identified as a former student at Stoneman Douglas High who had been expelled for disciplinary problems, walked into the school shortly before dismissal time, pulled a fire alarm and opened fire as students and teachers streamed out of classrooms into the halls.

The sheriff said Cruz arrived at the school by way of the Uber ride-sharing service and left the scene on foot, mixing in “with a group that were running away, fearing for their lives.”

He walked into a Walmart, bought a beverage at a Subway outlet inside the store, then visited a McDonald’s before he was spotted and detained by a police officer in the adjacent town of Coconut Creek, Israel said.

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Former classmates have described Cruz as a social outcast with a reputation as a trouble-maker, as well as someone who was “crazy about guns.” The sheriff has said some of the online and social media activity Cruz engaged in was “very, very disturbing.”

Wednesday’s shooting ranks as the greatest loss of life from school gun violence after the 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 first-graders and six adult educators dead.

“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference,” Trump said at the White House in a speech that emphasized school safety and mental health while avoiding any mention of gun policy. “We must actually make that difference.”

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives criticized the Republican leadership on Wednesday for refusing to take up legislation on tightening background checks for prospective gun buyers.

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Some gun control proponents and legal experts said Wednesday’s shooting might have been averted if Florida were among the handful of U.S. states with laws allowing police and family members to obtain restraining orders barring people suspected of being a threat from possessing guns.

Cruz had recently moved in with another family after his mother’s November death, said Jim Lewis, a lawyer representing the family, bringing his AR-15 along with other belongings.

The family believed Cruz was depressed, but attributed that to his mother’s death, not mental illness, Lewis said.

For graphic on Florida school shooting, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/FLORIDA-SHOOTING/010060XH1SW/shooting.jpg

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(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee)


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Trump is openly colluding with Ukraine to smear Biden

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President Donald Trump is defending his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one that recent media reports suggest may have been made in order to dig up dirt about one of Trump's likeliest and strongest opponents in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

This article first appeared on Salon.

"The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine," Trump tweeted on Saturday. "Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!"

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Democrats’ refusal to impeach Trump is a ‘bigger national scandal’ than him breaking the law: Ocasio-Cortez

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., criticized House Democrats on Saturday for their unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump despite new revelations that he may have pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on one of his potential Democratic rivals in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden.

This article first appeared in Salon.

"At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior - it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Saturday night.

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Mnuchin admits White House has transcript of Ukraine call and ‘they’re going to be kept confidential’

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed on Sunday that the White House does have a transcript of President Donald Trump's call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

During an interview on NBC's Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Mnuchin if he had an objection to Congress' request to see a transcript in which Trump allegedly asks Zelensky to open an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

While confirming that a transcript of the call exists, Mnuchin said that House Democrats have no right to see it.

"What I have a problem with is Congress asking for a transcript between world leaders," he told Todd. "I think that those are confidential discussions and that’s a difficult precedent."

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