During Homeland Security Hearing, Rosen Questions Acting DHS Secretary on Department’s Focus on Combating Peaceful Protesters Rather than Violent White Supremacists

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen questioned Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, on DHS’s response to nationwide protests against racial injustice, while neglecting rising white supremacist violence.

“This week, we marked one year since the horrific terrorist attack in El Paso in which 23 Americans lost their lives after a white supremacist targeted the city’s Latino community in a deadly rampage. According to the FBI, white supremacists are the nation’s most significant domestic threat. Statistics show that racially motivated violent extremism accounts for the majority of all domestic terrorist incidents since 1994,” said Senator Rosen. “Unfortunately, instead of addressing the root causes of white supremacist violence, this Administration is using the domestic terrorism label to crack down on peaceful protestors exercising their First Amendment rights.”

“To justify the presence of federal law enforcement in Portland, Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli and other DHS officials have accused demonstrators – made up of largely of students, veterans, mothers, nurses, and other Americans crying out for racial justice – of terrorism. President Trump has referred to his fellow Americans as a ‘beehive of terrorists,’ ” Senator Rosen continued. “Branding peaceful protestors as terrorists is a tactic commonly used in autocratic societies, not democracies. Politicizing domestic terrorism distracts from DHS’s mission to keep Americans safe from violent extremism, whether it’s violence targeting the Latino community in El Paso, the Jewish community at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, or any other Americans.”

“Do you agree with the FBI’s recent assessment that the top threat we face from domestic terrorists stems from racially motivated violent extremists, particularly white supremacists?” asked Senator Rosen.

“This Administration has gutted DHS’s budget to combat domestic terrorism, including by closing offices and cutting grant programs. Does the Department have the resources it needs to prevent white supremacists from escalating their hateful rhetoric into violence?” Senator Rosen continued.

“Can you discuss the amount of [taxpayer] dollars that have been spent on sending federal law enforcement to Portland that otherwise could have gone to combatting violent white supremacy and staving off the kind of attacks we’ve seen in the past few years in El Paso and Pittsburgh?” Senator Rosen’s line of questioning concluded.

BACKGROUND: In February 2020, in a statement before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated “The top threat we face from domestic violent extremists stems from those we now identify as racially/ethnically motivated violent extremists (RMVEs). RMVEs were the primary source of ideologically-motivated lethal incidents and violence in 2018 and 2019, and have been considered the most lethal of all domestic extremism movements since 2001.”

A June 2020 report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that racially-motivated and “… right-wing attacks and plots accounted for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994.”