Despite President Donald Trump and his allies turning a consistent blind eye, their ignorance has not made the real, violent threat from white nationalism suddenly vanish. During testimony delivered before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, FBI Director Christopher Wray revealed that there has been a large number of arrests of domestic terrorists engaging on behalf of white nationalist causes so far this fiscal year, which began last October. He explained that there’s been a roughly even split between arrests of individuals inspired by or otherwise connected to overseas groups and those engaging in more explicitly “domestic terrorism,” but he explained that the majority of those in the latter category have pledged allegiance to “white supremacist violence.”
As he put it, explaining that there’s been about 100 of these arrests total:
‘I will say that a majority of the domestic terrorism cases that we’ve investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence, but it does include other things as well.’
Director Wray says FBI made about 100 domestic terrorism arrests this year, and a “majority of domestic terrorism cases that we have investigated are motivated by some version of what you might call white supremacist violence.” pic.twitter.com/IsUYM3lYGQ
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) July 23, 2019
Although 100 might not seem like much to some, imagine if every one of those individuals killed ten people, which is around the number of casualties often associated with mass shooting events in the United States. That would leave 1,000 people dead. In other words, in the description of the FBI director himself, white supremacy remains a real and poignant threat to the people of the United States.
In response to questioner Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) raising concerns about the Trump administration ignoring white supremacist threats, Wray insisted:
‘We take domestic terrorism or hate crime – regardless of ideology – extremely seriously, I can assure you, and we are aggressively pursuing it using both counterterrorism resources and criminal investigative resources and partnering closely with our state and local partners… any extremist ideology, when it turns to violence, we’re all over it.’
He’s spoken along these lines before. Speaking before the House Appropriations Committee in April, he called white nationalism a “significant” and “persistent, pervasive threat.” That contrasts dramatically with Trump’s own position. After a white supremacist murdered 50 people in attacks targeting the New Zealand Muslim community, Trump essentially shrugged off the whole issue, saying he thinks the factions behind the attack and others like it constitute “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” Those who have died at the hands of white supremacists would no doubt beg to differ, if they had the chance.
Not only has Trump ignored the threat of white nationalist violence and failed to live up to the opportunity to lead some kind of charge against it as president of the United States, but he has also actively grown some of that violence with his rhetoric. Just recently, he happily presided over a rally crowd chanting “Send her back!” targeting progressive Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and it’s not difficult to see the force inherent in that chant as a call to violence.
There have also been explicit instances of Trump supporters taking Trump’s violent rhetoric to extremes like the case of Cesar Sayoc, who mailed bombs to prominent Democrats and media interests and whose lawyer argued just this week was radicalized by Donald Trump.
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