Lauren Fox

Lauren Fox is a reporter at Talking Points Memo.

Articles by Lauren

Ammon Bundy, the mastermind of the takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, has begun an open dialogue with the FBI.

According to a report from Oregon Public Broadcasting, Bundy traveled to a nearby airport Thursday to speak via telephone with an FBI mediator.Other agents were standing by, however. It is the first sign in nearly three weeks that the standoff may have an end in sight. The phone conversation came after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) admonished the feds for not doing more to remove Bundy and his militiamen from the refuge.

According to OPB, Bundy told the FBI that he still held out hope that the end of the standoff could be brought about without violence.

“The only ones that are going to make this a non-peaceful event will be you guys — the FBI or other law enforcement,” Bundy said, according to the OPB report.

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In a revealing report from the New York Times Tuesday, Clinton supporters including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) piled on in warning that Bernie Sanders could be an electoral liability for the party in 2016 if he managed to secure the nomination.

“The Republicans won’t touch him because they can’t wait to run an ad with a hammer and sickle,” McCaskill told the New York Times.

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It's been more than a year since the feds walked away from a showdown with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy over grazing fees, and so far no federal charges have come against the rogue rancher or any of his armed associates. As a result, many of the same men who stood with Bundy then have become emboldened and have redirected their antics at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon where an unknown number of militiamen remain today.

But experts say those militiamen shouldn't count on being let off the legal hook so easy. The evidence in this case, experts say, is mounting and regardless of the individual charges, holding armed squatters accountable is a matter of messaging and conviction at this point that the federal government cannot afford to cave on.

"The case in Nevada involved cows roaming on public lands ... Let’s just call that one level of wrong," said Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney in Arizona, told TPM. This incident, Charlton says is a whole new level of criminal.

"There are prosecutors who could do this kind of case in their sleep," Charlton said.

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In what is starting to look like a genius move, the federal government and local law enforcement have mostly kept their distance in the two weeks since an unknown number of out-of-town, rag-tag militiamen stormed the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and vowed to stay until the federal government turned over its land to local ranchers.

So far authorities have declined to confront the men or to put the squeeze on them by restricting movement to and from the refuge or even to turn off the electricity, which might help draw the men out of the compound in the freezing January days.

But the lack of confrontation by federal officials has not only prevented it from becoming the next Waco or Ruby Ridge but transformed it into a peculiar and mundane sideshow, a one-sided standoff where the militiamen's days are marked by visits from wacky outsiders like pretend judge Bruce Doucette coming to sniff out "evidence" against the federal government and from disgruntled community members ready for the men to leave already.

By leaving the would-be revolutionaries to their own devices, authorities have given them enough rope to hang themselves.

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