Orlando Shooting Motive Uncertain, AG Says

     ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Attorney General Loretta Lynch visited Orlando on Tuesday to meet with the families of the victims of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, but pointedly refused to discuss whether the shooter’s wife will be charged over the massacre.
     The trip came as the Justice Department continues investigating the June 12 bloodbath at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people died and scores of others were injured, and a day after officials had to backtrack on an ill-advised decision to release a redacted transcript of calls between gunman Omar Mateen and law enforcement officials on the night of the murders.
     Removed from the original transcript was the shooter’s name and all direct references to the Islamic State group and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
     In a statement the Justice Department said the names were omitted so as not to give extremists a publicity platform for hateful propaganda.
     But after several GOP lawmakers and news organizations roundly criticized the move, the department relented and released the full transcript.
     In Orlando on Tuesday, Lynch did not revisit the controversy, other than to say more transcripts will be released in coming days, including, “possibly” those of calls Mateen made to other individuals.
     Nor did she shed light on lingering unanswered questions regarding the timeline of the attack, possible friendly fire injuries that may have occurred during the initial shootout with Mateen, or the FBI’s failure to follow signs that may have prevented the attack.
     Lynch spoke with victims’ relatives, which she called a “very difficult meeting” but said “this is the core of what we do.”
     She was briefed at the FBI office by U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley and other law enforcement officials, including prosecutors assigned to the investigation.
     Later, Bentley said of Lynch’s visit, “I think there’s a real benefit to having her here to see everything firsthand.”
     Speaking with reporters after her briefing with local law enforcement, Lynch said there’s no doubt that Omar Mateen had embraced extremist propaganda.
     But she said investigators haven’t ruled out the possibility of other motives for the attack, and they don’t yet know for sure why he targeted a gay nightclub for the shooting. Mateen died in a gun battle with police.
     “This was clearly an act of terror and an act of hate,” she said, calling Mateen’s actions a “”shattering attack, on our nation, on our people and on our most fundamental ideals.”
     Lynch also directly addressed the LGBT community, saying, “We stand with you to say that the good in the world far outweighs the evil … and that our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love.”
     Lynch also announced that the Justice Department is making $1 million in emergency funding available to the Florida Department of Law to cover overtime costs for state and local responders.
     “We will move quickly to make the award as soon as possible. And we are offering emergency counseling resources to first responders to help them deal with the trauma that they too have experienced,” the attorney general said.
     But the $1 million was far short of what was being sought by Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
     Prior to Lynch’s arrival in Orlando, he complained the administration had turned down his request for $5 million to help pay for the state’s response to the massacre.
     Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said its disaster fund is not an “appropriate source” to pay for law enforcement response, medical care and counseling for victims resulting from a shooting.
     The agency did approve a state request to reallocate $253,000 in unspent money from a homeland security grant to help pay for overtime costs in the wake of the shooting, Lemaitre said.

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