Donald Trump continues to downplay the threat posed by white supremacist violence, instead pointing a finger at 'antifa' without evidence.
The two top security threats facing the country are white supremacist violence and Russian interference in U.S. elections, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security.
The agency released its Homeland Threat Assessment on Tuesday. The report found that between 2018 and 2019, white supremacist extremists conducted half of all lethal terrorist attacks in the United States, which resulted in the majority of deaths. During those years, white supremacists were responsible for eight out of 16 deadly attacks, which resulted in 39 of the 48 total deaths at the hands of "domestic violent extremists."
"Racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists — specifically white supremacist extremists — will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland," the report's authors wrote.
White supremacists "have demonstrated longstanding intent to target racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, politicians, and those they believe promote multiculturalism and globalization at the expense of the [white supremacist extremist] identity," the report continued.
On Thursday, Michigan's attorney general announced that U.S. intelligence officials had thwarted a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is a Democrat. Since the start of the pandemic, heavily armed right-wing militia groups have occupied the Michigan state capitol in defiance of Whitmer's stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"We have legislators who are showing up to work wearing bulletproof vests," Whitmer said in an interview with ABC's The View in May. "I respect people's right to dissent, but that does not extend to endangering other people's lives."
In September, the department announced it had awarded $10 million in grants to 29 separate projects as part of its Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention program. The DHS program aims to raise awareness about the threat of violent extremism within the United States, to "counter terrorists and violent extremists' influence online," and to "identify and respond to individuals at risk of mobilizing to violence."
Contrary to the government's findings, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied that white supremacist violence poses a threat to Americans' safety. Trump has also denied that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, in contradiction of U.S. intelligence agencies' findings.
During last week's first presidential debate, Trump declined to condemn violent white supremacists, and instructed members of the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by." The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated the Proud Boys as a domestic hate group.
After white supremacists marched with tiki torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump insisted there were "very fine people on both sides." One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed at that rally after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Meanwhile, Trump has labeled anti-racism protesters as "thugs" and "terrorists" while pledging that "at some point, there's going to be retribution because there has to be."
Several groups have spoken out against white supremacy in Trump's America.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America released a video last week showing side-by-side images comparing Nazi Germany to the United States during Trump's time in office.
"Trump's assault on our democratic institutions are reminiscent of the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany," JDCA executive director Halie Soifer said. "We must vote like our future as a people depends on it — because it does."
After last Tuesday's presidential debate, the Council on American-Islamic Relations — the country's largest Muslim civil rights organization — issued a statement condemning Trump's call for the Proud Boys to "stand by."
"Refusing to condemn white supremacy is shameful, and encouraging white supremacists to 'stand by' for possible violence is blatantly threatening," Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR's deputy executive director, said in the statement. "Elected officials across the political spectrum must repudiate President Trump's hateful rhetoric, which long ago went from being disturbing and embarrassing to destabilizing and dangerous."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.