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Michelle Fiscus. Photo: William DeShazer for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Fraud detectives with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department launched a new investigation into a dog muzzle sent to the state’s fired vaccine chief, Michelle Fiscus, after she reported the matter to officers last week.

Why it matters: State investigators closed their own probe into the muzzle earlier this month after determining it was purchased using Fiscus’ American Express card. Fiscus denied she bought the muzzle, and said someone else must have accessed her credit card information. Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said local detectives will seek an answer.

  • Fiscus brought the issue to Nashville police on Friday. She told officers she did not buy the muzzle and that she considered it a threat.
  • "We’re going to attempt to figure out how it happened," Aaron said of the harassment investigation.

The context: Fiscus was fired last month amid criticism from Republican lawmakers who were upset about health department efforts to convince teenagers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The muzzle arrived at her office during her last days on the job.

  • Fiscus characterized her firing as a political move driven by Republican state officials who opposed her work.
  • The health department released a memo last month stating Fiscus was fired for poor interpersonal communication skills, ineffective management and attempting to steer state money to a nonprofit she founded.
  • Fiscus’ legal team is now preparing to sue the state for defamation, according to her attorney, Chris Smith.

The background: In multiple interviews after her termination, Fiscus and her husband, Brad, said the muzzle was an attempt to threaten her and stop her from talking about vaccinations.

  • The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security investigated the muzzle and released a redacted report about its work last week. Investigators subpoenaed Amazon for details about the purchase. They found it was made using Fiscus’ credit card on an account created using her name.
  • "At this time, there appears to be no threat toward Dr. Fiscus associated with receipt of the dog muzzle," a summary of the case stated.

What they’re saying: Fiscus, her husband and her attorneys pushed back on the state’s findings.

  • They said the Amazon account was set up using a "burner phone" number from Washington state. The Amazon account was created in March, several months before Fiscus was in the news for her statements about vaccine messaging to teenagers.
  • Fiscus said she used her credit card for state purchases and expense reimbursements, suggesting the possibility her credit card information could have been accessed that way. A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance and Administration, which oversees the state’s financial software, said personal credit card information is not stored on the system.
  • A Department of Safety spokesman did not say if the state had investigated whether Fiscus' credit card information was stolen.
  • Responding to a question about the state investigation, the spokesman said the agency’s "sole objective was to determine whether or not there was a threat posed to Dr. Fiscus. Our investigation determined there was not and we closed the case."

For the record: Attorneys representing Fiscus requested a name-clearing hearing to contest the department’s rationale for firing her. They submitted a public records request to the state last month to collect information for the hearing.

  • The Department of Health said it would charge $654,251.95 to produce the records.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Mix-and-matching gains momentum — Boosters overtake first doses in U.S. — Pfizer to vaccinate Brazilian cityPanel endorses J&J booster.
  2. Health: Age is still a huge coronavirus risk factor — Unvaccinated 11x more likely to die from COVID — 5x more police officers died from COVID than guns.
  3. Politics: Over 30 states limited public health powers — Pope Francis calls on companies to release vaccine patents — Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders.
  4. Education: Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations — Parent sues Wisconsin school district after child tests positive.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
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Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) has been indicted on charges he falsified records and lied to federal investigators probing an illegal foreign donation scheme, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Driving the news: DOJ says a Fortenberry associate, who later cooperated with investigators, informed him he'd likely received illegal donations from an intermediary for a foreign national, but that Fortenberry denied any knowledge of such a scheme when contacted by the FBI.

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For the third time since 2018, Ubisoft is releasing a nonviolent version of its latest “Assassin’s Creed” game as part of a unique effort to turn one of the medium’s most popular series into an educational tool.

Driving the news:Viking Age: Discovery Tour” transforms last year’s “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla” from a bloody 150-hour game about Viking conquest in 9th century England into a peaceful four-hour game about merchants and monks.