Fresh on the heels of a horrendous act of domestic terrorism committed in El Paso by a white supremacist comes a report that the Trump administration has, for more than a year, rejected advice from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to intensify focus on domestic terrorism. CNN broke this story today, indicating their sources are current and former high level Trump administration officials. DHS had specifically recommended that domestic terrorism be given more attention in the National Counterterrorism Strategy, but the White House continually rejected that recommendation, in the end allotting only one paragraph to domestic terrorism with no mention made of white supremacist factions at all.
One of the former officials in CNN’s report specifically mentioned the administration’s reluctance to condemn white supremacy for political reasons as motivating its lack of responsiveness to DHS’s advice, saying, according to The Hill, that the lack of focus on domestic terrorism is “because the preponderance of it involves white supremacy and that’s not something this administration is comfortable speaking out against, until the other day by the president and even that was pretty hedged.” This official was of course not alone in noting the lackluster tone and inconsistent message expressed when Trump read off a teleprompter to say that white supremacy should be condemned. When speaking in his own words, or writing them on Twitter, rather than haltingly reading someone else’s words off of a teleprompter, Trump appears not just to tolerate, but also to encourage racist sentiments and blind hatred toward immigrants. According to The Hill:
For more than a year, the White House rebuffed a DHS push to make domestic terror a higher priority as part of the National Counterterrorism Strategy, according to the network (CNN), citing current and former senior administration officials and other sources close to the administration. …The final version of the strategy focuses overwhelmingly on Islamic terrorism and includes a paragraph about “other forms of violent extremism,” including racially motivated extremism, militia groups and environmentalist extremists, with no specific mention of white supremacists. “DHS is surging resources to the [domestic terrorism] issue, but they’re behind the curve because of lack of support from the White House,” one current senior administration official told CNN. …DHS officials attempted to compromise with the administration and asked for a subsequent strategy specifically covering domestic terror, but the White House declined, CNN said.
Just last month FBI Director Christopher Wray gave congressional testimony in which he indicated that in the first 75% of this fiscal year, there were nearly as many domestic terrorism arrests as international ones and that the majority of those domestic terrorism arrests involved white supremacists. The extent of the threat posed by white supremacist violence was sadly shown on Saturday, when a racially and anti-immigrant motivated mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. That the White House has dragged its heels in making the thwarting of domestic terrorism a priority is troubling of course, but sadly not surprising under the administration of President Trump, who apparently believes his racist, anti-immigrant, dehumanizing rhetoric to be beneficial politically and apparently believes that this political benefit is his most important priority.