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Navy Pilot Lost in C-2 Crash 'Flew the Hell Out of That Airplane'

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A Navy lieutenant who lost his life while working to save his passengers in a C-2 Greyhound crash last week may be recommended for an award, an official said Monday.

Lt. Steven Combs, the pilot of the aircraft, was one of three sailors who died when the aircraft crashed Nov. 22 in the Pacific Ocean en route to the carrier Ronald Reagan from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. Eight other sailors, including the co-pilot, were rescued from the water.

Combs managed to execute a landing on the water, giving the four aircrew and seven passengers the best opportunity to get clear of the aircraft and reach safety. The difficulty of such a landing with the cargo aircraft was compounded by high seas, which by some reports reached 10 to 12 feet, said Cmdr. Ronald Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces.

“They did not have a lot of notice that they were going to have to ditch just miles from the carrier,” Flanders told Military.com. “To use the words of his co-pilot who told us, ‘[Combs] flew the hell out of that plane.'”

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Flanders added that the possibility of a posthumous award for Combs in light of his actions was under discussion.

Combs, who was commissioned in 2011 and reported to Fleet Logistics Squadron 30 in 2015, had served aboard Ronald Reagan as a detachment assistant operations officer and administrative officer, according to a Navy release. During his career, he had logged more than 1,200 flight hours and 100 carrier-arrested landings.

Navy personnel were able to rescue the eight survivors within an hour of the C-2 going down southwest of Okinawa. On Nov. 25, the Navy identified those lost as Combs, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Airman Matthew Chialastri and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso.

Multiple sources have reported that engine failure is suspected as a cause of the crash, though an investigation is still underway.

“Clearly there was something amiss with the aircraft and basically they were not close enough to the carrier to try to bring it in,” Flanders said.

On Saturday, the Ronald Reagan held a memorial service to commemorate the lives of Combs, Chialastri and Grosso.

Capt. Michael Wosje, the commander of the Reagan’s Carrier Air Wing 5, paid special tribute to the fallen pilot.

“The loss of one of our pilots weighs heavily on the entire Carrier Air Wing Five team. Lt. Combs will always be remembered as a hero,” Wosje said, according to a news release. “I am proud to have flown with him.”

The commander of the carrier, Capt. Buzz Donnelly, also honored the sailors who died.

“The loss of these crew members hits across the entire ship with great significance,” said Capt. Buzz Donnelly, Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “On behalf of the entire crew of USS Ronald Reagan, I extend heartfelt prayers and sincere condolences to the families and friends of the three shipmates we lost.”

Less than a week after the tragic crash, the Navy has not moved to suspend or pause flight operations for the aging Greyhound, the service’s carrier onboard delivery platform for personnel and logistics.

Flanders noted that the current batch of the aircraft, C-2A(R), which began flying for the Navy in the mid-1980s, has an almost unprecedented safety record. There has been only one previous fatality — a tragic 1988 mishap in which an individual walked into the aircraft’s prop arc.

“This mishap was the first of its kind in several decades,” Flanders said of the most recent crash.

The Greyhounds now flying for the Navy recently underwent a service-life extension program that was completed in 2015. The transports are set to be retired and replaced by Navy-variant CMV-22 Ospreys in the mid-2020s.

— Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

© Copyright 2017 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Texas takes DACA to court, says immediate injunction against Obama-era program 'vital to restoring the rule of law'

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The state of Texas is seeking a nationwide injunction against the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), telling a federal judge in a hearing Wednesday that the government should be barred immediately from issuing or renewing more permits under the program.

Texas is part of a 10-state coalition that filed a still-pending lawsuit to end DACA in May. The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, joined several other state attorneys general Wednesday in asking U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen to halt DACA, which protects about 700,000 people from deportation, until that litigation is concluded.

Paxton said in a statement that the lawsuit was “vital to restoring the rule of law to our immigration system.”

The Trump administration has sought to rescind DACA using executive authority, in a manner similar to how the Obama White House implemented the program. But federal judges have blocked these efforts, saying the White House cannot legally terminate an agency program like DACA under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) for “arbitrary and capricious” reasons.

But in its motion for a preliminary injunction against new DACA permits and renewals, Texas turned that argument on its head, saying that in fact it was the Obama administration that failed to follow key provisions of the APA when it implemented the policy.

“DACA violated the procedural requirements of the APA because it was created without notice and comment,” Texas’ filing stated. Notice and comment procedures, in which the public is made aware of pending changes in the law and offered a chance to discuss them, typically are required when a new policy affects peoples’ substantive rights and interests.

SESSIONS RIPS FEDERAL JUDGE FOR ‘EVISCERATING’ FEDERAL POWER ON DACA — WHY ARE JUDGES STANDING IN TRUMP’S WAY?

Paxton justified the need for a preliminary injunction — as opposed to waiting for a decision on the merits of the case — by arguing that the state had an urgent legal duty to protect its citizens, whom he said were being harmed directly by the soaring “healthcare, education, and law-enforcement costs” associated with DACA recipients, as well as the economic competition from illegal immigrants.

“Texas spent approximately $376,000,000 to provide Emergency Medicaid services to unlawfully present aliens over the last 11 years for which data are available,” Texas wrote in its motion for a preliminary injunction. “Likewise, Texas spent approximately $6,200,000 to provide Family Violence Program services to undocumented immigrants over the last 11 years for which data are available.”

However, opponents of Texas’ request for an injunction rejected the idea that the state was suffering imminent, irreparable harm.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) told the judge that claims about DACA recipients draining state resources were “both irrelevant and grossly inflated.”

Nina Perales, an attorney for MALDEF, questioned why Texas had waited six years to claim the program was causing “irreparable” damage if it really was such an imminent threat to residents.

Texas’ lawyers also argued that DACA was an unconstitutional violation of the president’s duty to take care that laws passed by Congress were faithfully executed.

The attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia joined Paxton in making the request for an injunction.

Hanen did not issue an immediate ruling Wednesday. But he asked pointed questions of both sides about how this case compared to his ruling three years ago against another expansion of immigrant protections by former President Obama.

In that case, Hanen ruled against an expansion of DACA and new protections for immigrant parents. A federal appeals court sided with Hanen and the U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4, leaving his ruling in place. The expanded protections never went into effect.

Texas now has asked for Hanen to stop the U.S. government from enforcing Obama’s 2012 memorandum creating DACA. Three other federal judges have stopped President Trump’s administration from ending DACA.

If Hanen rules in Texas’ favor, legal experts said that conflict would draw the attention of higher courts and potentially the U.S. Supreme Court.

DACA has authorized around 700,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain work permits and driver’s licenses. 

“No one in this case is a bad guy.”

– U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen

On Wednesday, state attorney Todd Disher said the new case raised legal questions that Hanen already had addressed in his previous ruling.

The states technically sued the U.S. government because the government runs the program. But with the Trump administration aiming to end DACA, states that support the program intervened, along with MALDEF, to argue that the program should remain in place.

A group of people protected by DACA attended the hearing and protested outside the courthouse afterward. Hanen acknowledged the attention the case has received and its importance to DACA recipients involved in the case, who he said “were just trying to live the best life they possibly can.”

He added, “No one in this case is a bad guy.”

Hanen instructed attorneys on both sides of the issue to submit new filings by Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gregg Re is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @gregg_re.

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Janus Ruling Fallout: Washington state employees sue to 'escape' union

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Several Washington state employees are suing for the right to break ties with their union, claiming the Supreme Court’s landmark Janus decision should allow them to cancel their membership immediately. 

That June ruling said state government workers could not be forced to pay so-called “fair share” fees to support collective bargaining and other union activities. The decision delivered a blow to public-employee unions.

But the lawsuit filed Thursday, if successful, could point to further repercussions. 

The six plaintiffs have all attempted to leave the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) since the Supreme Court decision, but say they’ve been told they have to wait until an “escape period” next year. 

The government agency employees signed membership agreements – meaning they were part of a union as opposed to nonmembers forced to pay fees – but the lawsuit said the employees did so when “the right to not fund union advocacy was yet to be recognized.” Before the Supreme Court ruling, Washington was one state where certain public employees were required to pay agency fees.

“I just want what’s right and fair, and the way the union has treated me since the Janus decision is not right, nor fair.”

– Plaintiff Mike Stone

“Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay,” Justice Samuel Alito said in writing the majority opinion.

The Freedom Foundation, the conservative Washington-based think tank that filed the suit on behalf of the employees, argues union membership cards signed before that decision should now be invalidated because “it’s impossible for a worker to have knowingly waived a right that wasn’t recognized by the court until the Janus ruling was issued.” The workers argue they only joined because they presumed they’d have to pay fees anyway or were given bad information. 

SUPREME COURT DEALS BLOW TO UNIONS, RULES AGAINST FORCED FEES FOR GOVERNMENT WORKERS

The nonprofit also alleges that unions “pressured” employees to join or misled workers to believe membership was required as opposed to just paying the reduced fee.

“I just want what’s right and fair, and the way the union has treated me since the Janus decision is not right, nor fair,” plaintiff Mike Stone, who works in the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, told Fox News. “WFSE doesn’t share my views or my values. I don’t want my money being used to support an organization I disagree with.” 

The agreements only allow for a short window (between 10 and 20 days, according to the suit) for employees to resign from the union once a year. Otherwise, deductions will automatically renew annually. 

Another plaintiff, who wished only to be identified as Ms. Torres, said she was never told exactly what she was signing and didn’t realize she wasn’t going to be allowed to resign from the union at any time.

“The union organizer simply said if we were already a member we needed to sign their new form,” she told Fox News in a statement. “It’s totally unethical for the union to trick state workers to sign away their constitutional rights and then turn around and tell you that you cannot opt out because you signed a contract.”

FREEDOM FOUNDATION SUES SEATTLE OVER CONTROVERSIAL NEW INCOME TAX

“I had no knowledge that the form they provided was a contract. This is an outrage and disrespectful. I want my right to opt out.”

After the Janus decision, the Washington attorney general’s office said the Supreme Court’s ruling “does not impact any agreements between a union and its members to pay union dues, and existing membership cards or other agreements by union members to pay dues should continue to be honored.” It said the decision just prohibits employers from deducting agency fees from nonmembers without affirmative consent.

Washington has some of the highest union membership rates in the U.S., according to the Department of Labor.  

DESPITE SUPREME COURT DECISION, UNION WORKERS VOW TO PUSH FORWARD

“The state and the unions are determined to act as though the Janus ruling affects only those workers who successfully opt out,” James Abernathy, the Freedom Foundation’s senior litigation counsel, said in a statement. “But it goes a lot farther than that.”

“Janus puts the burden of proof on the union to prove a worker actually wants to be a dues-paying member,” he said. “It can’t simply assume they do until informed otherwise, nor can the workers be bullied into waiving rights they don’t realize they have.”

The class-action suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks the restitution of dues since the Janus decision. Aside from WFSE, the lawsuit names Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and several of the state’s departments’ directors as defendants. 

Neither the governor’s office nor the state attorney general’s office responded to a request for comment from Fox News by Friday morning. 

The plaintiffs are employed at the state’s Department of Health, Department of Social and Health Services, Department of Transportation and Health Care Authority.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

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How Rod Rosenstein is connected to Trump, Russia investigation

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As the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election – and any involvement from the Trump campaign – forges ahead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has found himself on the receiving end of some Republicans’ ire.

With President Trump continuing to criticize the investigation into collusion, 11 House Republicans filed articles of impeachment against Rosenstein. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is spearheading the probe, but Rosenstein, 53, still oversees the federal investigation as deputy attorney general.

In the articles of impeachment, the Republicans accused Rosenstein of intentionally withholding documents and information from Congress, failure to comply with congressional subpoenas and abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

“We’ve caught the Department of Justice hiding information, redacting information that they should not have redacted,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Fox News. Jordan, who was one of the lawmakers who introduced the articles, also claimed Rosenstein attempted to intimidate House staffers with subpoenas.

Read on for a look at how Rosenstein is connected to the Russia investigation.

What is Rosenstein’s job?

Rosenstein was confirmed by the Senate as deputy attorney general in April 2017.

As deputy attorney general, he is responsible for day-to-day operations of the Justice Department and oversees its agencies, including the FBI.

How is he involved in the Russia investigation?

Rosenstein appointed Mueller as the special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election in May 2017.

The appointment came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe, and Rosenstein stepped in to oversee the investigation.

More on the Russia investigation:

At the time, Rosenstein said his decision to appoint a special counsel was “not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted.”

Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller must consult with Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then determines whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or part of Justice.

According to a memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, Rosenstein signed at least one FISA surveillance application that targeted Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser on Trump’s campaign.

Did he have something to do with Comey’s firing?

Democrats were critical of Rosenstein after the White House used a memo he’d crafted as a reason to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Politico reported. Rosenstein reportedly drafted the memo after Trump had expressed his desire to fire Comey.

Rosenstein later told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that he stood by his memo. He said it was “not a finding of official misconduct” or “a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination.”

“Notwithstanding my personal affection for Director Comey, I thought it was appropriate to seek a new leader,” Rosenstein said.

What has the White House said about him?

As he has continued to deny any wrongdoing, Trump has been critical of the Russia investigation, particularly of Mueller’s handling of it.

In an April 11 tweet, Trump accused Mueller of being “conflicted” – and Rosenstein even more so.

Fox News’ Samuel Chamberlain, Gregg Re and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter: @K_Schallhorn.

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