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Dear Oklahoma Friends and Neighbors,

My heart is heavy as I send you this Lankford Letter. This past weekend, our nation witnessed a senseless act of terrorism in Orlando—something Oklahomans are all too familiar with. As we continue to learn more about Sunday’s tragedy, I pray for the victims, their families, the entire city of Orlando and our nation. In times of terror threats and instability, we must come together as Americans to support one another.

Orlando Shooting and the FBI

On Wednesday, I sat down for over an hour with the director of the FBI in a classified setting to talk about the horrible terrorist attack in Orlando and the continued threat of lone wolf attacks in the United States. In the past few years, lone wolf ISIS attacks have increased in number and lethality. Individuals affiliated with ISIS have attacked a Christmas party in San Bernadino, California, a free speech event in Garland, Texas and now a nightclub in Florida. Only two years ago, radical Islamic terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon.  

During my conversation with the director, I confirmed the current restrictions on anyone purchasing a firearm that is on a terrorist watchlist. There has been a great deal of confusion, because many people believe that someone on the terror watchlist can purchase a firearm—they cannot. When a known or suspected terrorist attempts to purchase a gun of any type they will be denied for three days and the FBI will be notified immediately.  

From my conversations with the director of the FBI on Wednesday and the director of the CIA on Thursday, it became clear that ISIS lone wolf attacks will continue as long as ISIS maintains their "caliphate" in Syria. Their radical ideology demands that their followers come to Syria and defend their capital or kill people to advance their belief.  

As Americans, we need to continue to cooperate with the FBI and pass on any suspicious or threatening behavior we see. The people who worked around the Orlando terrorist reported him in 2013, but unfortunately there was not enough evidence at that time to confirm the threat. In the days ahead, I will carefully review the FBI's 2013 and 2014 investigation of Omar Mateen to see what could have been done differently to identify him as a future terrorist. 

National Defense Authorization Act

This week, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which funds and directs the operations for the US Department of Defense. This National Defense Authorization Act provides necessary equipment for the military to work with the intelligence community to combat terrorism, provides a well-deserved pay raise for those in uniform, and provides funding for the fifth generation F-35 and the Air Force’s air refuelers—among many other upgrades to equipment for those who protect and serve us.

To read my full statement on voting for the National Defense Authorization Act, CLICK HERE.

Stop Settlements Slush Fund Act

Last week I introduced the Stop Settlements Slush Fund Act, which would prohibit the Department of Justice from settling cases that require defendants to donate money to third-party nonprofits of the DOJ's choice as part of settlement agreements. Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the DOJ keeps a list of approved nonprofits that benefit from certain settlements. In 2011, the DOJ directed $30 million from a banking settlement towards partisan non-profit groups, like the National Community Reinvestment Coalition and NeighborWorks America. This is an unacceptable use of taxpayer money. 

It is not the job of the DOJ to direct penalty money to be paid in the form of donations to third-parties of their choice. This bill will ensure money is rightfully awarded to victims, not the DOJ’s political agenda. 

This week, I also offered a version of this legislation as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. To keep up with the progress on this amendment, please follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

CLICK HERE to read my full statement. 

Speech to Faith & Freedom Coalition

Last Friday, I was honored to speak at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, DC. A lot of people have a sense that our hope should be in the nation’s capital. Our country is about much more than Washington, DC. Our identity is in our communities—at our children’s schools and on the sidelines of their soccer games, with our friends at church, or in the grocery store with our neighbors. Washington is a reflection of our identity in these communities and if we want to change the direction of our country, it must start with who we are at home.

The foundation of our nation has always been family. As our families collapse, government rises. 

CLICK HERE to watch the full speech.

Keeping You in the Loop

  • The first week of June, I was able to travel across the state to visit with Oklahomans. While in Tulsa, I spoke with churches and potential foster families at an Oklahoma Fosters Initiative breakfast and roundtable discussion. CLICK HERE to learn more.
  • On Tuesday, May 31, I was able to sit down with community members from North Tulsa on the 95th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Riot to remember the tragedy but to also discuss the bright future of North Tulsa. I’m grateful for their work to ensure a prosperous future of a growing community. 
  • On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee held an open hearing with CIA Director John Brennan testifying. The purpose of the hearing was to walk through the CIA’s intelligence programs and activities that support national security efforts. CLICK HERE to watch my Q&A with Director Brennan about the Presidential transition, ISIS expansion, the limited US air campaign in Syria and Russian intelligence operations.
  • On Monday, I joined Senators Roy Blunt, Steve Daines, Jerry Moran and 30 members of the House of Representatives to submit an amicus brief (friend of the court) to the US Supreme Court to argue that while the First Amendment protects atheists’ beliefs, it does not require that all references to God be removed from government. The lawsuit argues that the inclusion of the National Motto on US currency violates Free Speech and Free Exercise under the First Amendment. To read more, CLICK HERE
  • On June 7, I was able to sit down with Oklahoma City’s News9 to discuss my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that will hold countries who receive terrorists released from GITMO accountable if they allow them to escape or return to terrorism. CLICK HERE to watch the interview.
  • Last Wednesday, Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress. Prior to his visit, I asked President Obama to continue to press Prime Minster Modi to protect the fundamental right of peaceful expression of religious freedom. India has experienced incidents of intimidation, harassment and violence on minority religions. As a leader for religious liberty, the US should take every opportunity to encourage the right of every human to live out their faith. To read my comments prior to Prime Minister Modi’s visit, CLICK HERE. To read my statement following his speech, CLICK HERE.
  • VETERANS: The new director of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee, Mark Morgan, started this week. In May, I met with Mark to discuss how to raise the standard of care for veterans as well as restore transparency, accountability and the highest quality of service. I continually meet with Veterans across the state and value your feedback. If you are a patient at the Muskogee VA Medical Center, I’d love to hear yours. CLICK HERE to send me an email.

Stay Connected! 

If you would like more information on these topics or any other legislation currently before the U.S. Senate, please do not hesitate to call my D.C. office at (202) 224-5754. My Oklahoma City office can be reached at (405) 231-4941 and my Tulsa office at (918) 581-7651. You can also follow me on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for updates on my work in Congress.

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