Democrats probe into white violent extremism set to end under GOP

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When Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.) opened a congressional hearing in May 2019 to examine “the rise…of domestic terrorism, violent white supremacy,” he didn’t know what he was starting.

Raskin, chairman of the House Civil Rights Oversight Subcommittee, knew there would be more than one session, but said they “have multiplied because there were so many different dimensions to the problem”. … We wanted to try to get to the bottom of it as completely as possible. You know, there are a lot of parts of the country where fear of violent white supremacists is part of everyday life.

The seventh and final hearing ended last week, 43 months after the first, and just before Republicans, who have other priorities, took control of the House. Taken together, the sessions are a searing examination of a defining issue for the United States. They bolster Raskin’s reputation for his dogged and methodical investigative style, which is most widely recognized for his handling of President Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

“The main lesson people need to learn is that violent white supremacy is the deadliest domestic terrorist threat facing the American people. Nothing else comes close,” Raskin said in an interview on Tuesday. “We ignore its virulence at our peril.”

Raskin credits the hearings with pushing “substantial progress in the federal government’s drive to identify and counter domestic violent extremism.”

This change has been demonstrated by President Biden. Just two days into his presidency, he ordered federal officials to study the threat of domestic violent extremism. This led to the publication in June 2021 of a “National Strategy for the Fight against Domestic Terrorism”. In a veiled blow to his predecessor, Biden’s preface to the strategy read, “We cannot ignore this threat or wish for it.”

Trump was president in the first four hearings. Raskin’s subcommittee characterized this period, in a statement ahead of the second June 2019 hearing, as “significantly reduced resources and infrastructure” against “the growing threat of white supremacist extremism.” At the fourth hearing in September 2020, Raskin said Trump’s team “decided to mislead the public by downplaying the issue”, despite data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) indicating that 75 % of all extremist-related killings in the past 10 years were legal. -wing extremists.

Trump’s team did not respond to a request for comment.

An FBI statement said “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism,” as the agency calls it, was elevated to a “primary threat” priority in 2019, meaning that “more resources were allocated to deal with the threat”. Most cases in this category, the FBI added, “involve those who advocate white superiority.” A prediction from the Department of Homeland Security emailed The Washington Post said “those racially or ethnically motivated, including white supremacists, will likely remain the deadliest threats.”

Nonetheless, the Republican panel members and the witnesses they selected downplayed the issue with comparisons to other violence that pales in comparison to that perpetrated by white extremists.

Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, complained, via email, that Raskin “has done nothing to hold accountable those on the left who have committed political violence.” Gonzalez testified at the fifth hearing in May 2021.

That’s a weak comparison. Those on the left, although guilty in some cases, did much less damage than those on the right.

“White supremacists killed more people in 2021 than any other type of extremist,” the Anti-Defamation League reported. Of the 29 people killed in 2021 by U.S. domestic extremists, 26 of the killings — 90% — “were committed by right-wing extremists,” though not all right-wingers are white supremacists, according to ADL. Black nationalists were responsible for two, and one was committed by “an Islamist extremist – the latter being the first such killing since 2018”.

The hearings considered a range of topics beginning with the “consequences of inaction”. Other hearings, in chronological order, focused on the federal government’s response, the “transnational terrorist threat”, “the infiltration of white supremacists into local police departments”, the “rise of extremism of the militias,” Biden’s counterterrorism strategy, and the “permanent threat to democracy.”

Although the sessions exposed critical issues, they cannot stop the violence.

During the last hearing on Dec. 13, Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.) warned that “hate is on the rise. That is why it is essential that Congress continue to shed light on this growing cancer and offer substantive solutions to combat hate and violence. We may disagree on politics, but there is no place in this country for discrimination, violence and unbridled hatred.

But Republicans apparently disagree on the need to shed light on white violent extremism. Neither Rep. James Comer (Ky.) nor Rep. Nancy Mace (SC), the Republican leaders of the committee and subcommittee, respectively, responded to questions about the domestic terrorism review as part of a house controlled by the GOP. Comer takes over as chair of the committee of the whole in January.

Republican attempts to downplay the impact of white violent extremism were evident in comments from last week’s hearing that grossly misrepresented the convicted murderer of 10 black people at a Buffalo Tops grocery store in May. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) claimed the alleged shooter, Payton Gendron, who pleaded guilty, was “a recognized socialist.” This comment earned “four Pinocchios”, indicating a “whopper” of a lie, from my Post colleague and fact-checker Glenn Kessler. He found Gendron, far from being a socialist, favorable to the “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”. Gendron, indeed, was a neo-Nazi.

Biggs’ claims also surprised witness Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism. Gendron was “so clearly driven by ideology, white supremacist narratives,” said Segal, who is “very familiar” with Gendron’s manifesto and online presence. “I was a bit shocked that this was even…a point of debate,” he added over the phone.

Lecia Brooks, chief of staff and culture at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said by email that the hearings on “white supremacy and extremism were the most important examination of domestic extremism, from threats to national security and threats to our democracy for decades”.

The threat isn’t over, but, apparently, the review is.


Washington

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