Reprinted with permission from American Independent
President Joe Biden's administration is expanding new grants from the Department of Homeland Security to target and prevent right-wing domestic terrorism after years of such efforts being effectively stymied by Donald Trump — and the department is ramping up its plans to combat what experts say is the greatest terrorist threat facing America today.
According to an NBC report, although the department's Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism prevention originally directed some funding to these grants toward the end of Trump's time in office, Biden's new plan expands upon the funding available, which will include more than $500,000 allocated toward American University to study the "growing threat of violent white supremacist extremist information."
DHS, which in 2019 founded the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention to prevent violent political extremism, is expected to continue to receive more funding from Congress during the Biden administration. Grants awarded from this office go toward state and local law enforcement efforts in combating domestic terrorism.
Officials say the Trump administration effectively hamstrung the department from enacting real efforts to halt right-wing extremist violence. Trump and his administration frequently placed blame for domestic terrorist violence on "Antifa" and civil rights activist groups like Black Lives Matter, instead of on actual right-wing perpetrators.
At the first televised presidential debate last September 29, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would denounce right-wing extremist violence from the stage.
"Sure, I'm prepared to do that," Trump answered. "I would say almost everything I see is from the left-wing, not from the right-wing. I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace."
He then told the far-right white supremacist group, the Proud Boys, to "stand back and stand by," adding, "But I'll tell you what. Somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left. Because this is not a right-wing problem — this is a left-wing problem."
But experts agree right-wing extremism is one of the greatest domestic threats the country faces today.
In the first eight months of 2020, 67 percent of attacks on American soil by political extremists were committed by right-wing domestic terrorists, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The CSIS database also notes that since 2010, almost six times as many Americans have been murdered by right-wing extremists as left-wing extremists. Since 1994, not a single murder has been linked to "Antifa" activists.
A February 2020 report by the Anti-Defamation League found that 90% of extremist-related murders in the United States in 2019 were committed by right-wing extremists.
But experts tried for years to investigate the threat posed by right-wing domestic terrorists under Trump, only to find themselves repeatedly stonewalled by Trump and his administration.
A New York Times report found that Trump's Justice Department redirected resources and funding to focus on the bogeyman of "Antifa" violence instead of very real violence fomenting on the right, shuffling prosecutors and FBI agents off of right-wing violence threat assessment to focus on baseless claims of leftist violence.
Two former Department of Justice officials told the Times they were pressured to "uncover" a left-wing violent conspiracy plot that didn't exist, and top DHS officials denied funding for more analysts to flag right-wing threats of violence on social media in the election's aftermath.
Far-right extremists felt they had "an ally in the White House," according to Mary McCord, a former DOJ employee and Georgetown University professor specializing in domestic terrorism. "That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw [at the Capitol]."
Elizabeth Neumann, former DHS assistant secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention, told NBC that even use of the term "domestic terrorism" in department meetings with Trump was discouraged in favor of broader terms like "violence prevention."
"We did expand domestic terrorism prevention under Trump," she said, "but when it came to questions of how we could change the domestic terrorism statute to charge people more easily, there were no adults at the White House who were willing to go there, nor was anyone willing to define the threat."
Experts have said that the Capitol insurrectionists see the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a "resounding success," and without intervention, it could result in a "golden age of domestic extremism."
But Biden's team has plans to take strong preventative measures to cut off right-wing violence at its root.
A DHS spokesperson told NBC, "Domestic violent extremism poses one of the gravest threats to our homeland, and Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas has made clear that combatting it is a top priority. Our primary responsibility is to protect the safety and security of the American people, which means taking actions to prevent violence before it occurs."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.