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Loretta Lynch brings pledge of support, few new answers

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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressed strong confidence in Orlando Tuesday that investigators will determine pretty clearly why Omar Mateen walked into a joyful nightclub and killed as many people as he could.

Lynch had few answers in hand about the biggest horror and saddest day in Orlando’s history, Mateen’s June 12 post-midnight attack on the popular gay nightclub Pulse that killed 49 and wounded 53. Yet she tried to offer assurances that federal officials, working with local and state officials, would offer every support and resolution possible.

That starts with resolution to the question haunting all and partly dividing America: Why did he do it? Mateen is taking most of that to his own grave. Yet Lynch expressed confidence that the FBI and other investigators would go a long ways toward solving that terrible riddle.

“You know whenever you look at someone’s motivation and intent, whether they are living or dead, you look at their actions and activities surrounding the event. You look at what they said. You look at what they did. You look at how they behaved. And you come up with the most reasonable the most reasonable interpretation, one that fits the facts,” she said in a media briefing in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando.

“And so we do feel as we continue to build a timeline and a chronology and to build his life that we will be able to determine this. I cannot tell you definitively we will ever narrow it down to one motivation,” Lynch continued.

“People often act out of more than one motivation. This was clearly an act of terror and an act of hate.”

Lynch came to town five days after her boss President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden visited Orlando. She is doing much of what they did: meeting with first responders, surviving victims and families, offering comfort, solace and assurance however she can.

“There is no doubt that this was a shattering attack on our nation, on our people and on our most fundamental ideals. But the message of Orlando goes far beyond one night of unspeakable terror,” she said.

“The Orlando that I have seen today and the American people have seen in the wake of this horrific assault is a message of determination to remove hatred and determination in our midst, to live our lives freely and without fear, and to stay true to the values of justice and equality,” Lynch added.

While she promised full federal support, she declined to say why the White House did not fulfill Gov. Rick Scott‘s request to declare a federal emergency in Orlando. She did assure the federal government would be releasing, as soon as possible, $1 million in emergency funds to help first responder agencies deal with overtime costs and other expenses, and she reiterated the list of services the federal government began providing last week.

She also came for briefings with the local, state and federal investigators, and was joined at her news conference by U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, A. Lee Bentley; FBI Special Agent in Charge Ron Hopper; ATF Special Agent In Charge Trevor Velinor of the Tampa office; Orlando Police Chief John Mina; Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings; and others. None spoke.

Lynch pledged as much transparency as possible. But as with the transcripts of the 911 call Mateen made from inside his killing zone, which were first released Monday with redactions, then released later Monday with full transcripts, that transparency would come over time, she said.

Among the questions she fielded that she said await further investigation or time:

  • When actual 911 audio recordings might be released.
  • Whether and when transcripts of other calls Mateen reportedly made from inside Pulse might be released.
  • How many calls Mateen placed from inside the nightclub.
  • Whether Mateen’s body has been released yet to his family, and if not, whether it would be released to his family.
  • How many bullets Mateen fired.
  • Whether Mateen’s autopsy results revealed anything significant, or when those results would be publicly released.
  • When autopsy results of Mateen’s 49 victims might be released.
  • Whether Mateen was HIV positive.
  • Whether any of the killed or wounded innocent victims might have been hit by law enforcement fire when police and sheriff’s deputies raided the club and killed Mateen.
  • Whether Mateen’s wife Noor Salman has left the state of Florida, or whether she would be arrested.
  • Whether a federal grand jury might be empaneled to consider charges against her or anyone else associated with Mateen.

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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