- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2019

Dozens of Democrats accused the White House on Thursday of potentially endangering the lives of Americans by purposely downplaying the threat posed by violent white extremists.

In letters sent to the heads of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, 65 members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, raised concerns over the federal government’s handling of domestic terrorism and white extremists under President Trump.

“We are concerned that the Trump administration is jeopardizing our national security by failing to take domestic terrorism seriously. In particular, this administration is failing to address white supremacist extremist violence, the leading cause of domestic terrorism,” they wrote.

Led by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, the letters said the White House omitted domestic terror threats as a priority in its National Counterterrorism Strategy and attempted to decrease related funding during the last two fiscal years.

The letters also said that lawmakers were “alarmed” to learn that the administration has been withholding an internal report, “Domestic Terrorism in 2018,” that showed white supremacists were behind all race-based domestic terrorism incidents in 2018. It was sent by DHS to multiple agencies, including the FBI, but not given to Congress despite multiple requests, they wrote.

“As a consequence of the Trump Administration’s ideologically motivated attempts to downplay the threat of white nationalist extremist violence, funding and personnel requests have not reflected real-world conditions,” the Democrats wrote. “Taken together, these developments give the strong impression that the Trump Administration may be endangering American lives by politicizing law enforcement and interfering with the operation of the agencies you lead.”

The letters were sent to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting DHS secretary, and seek answers on their agencies handling of domestic terrorism by Sept. 21.

Among the questions asked in the letters are whether the White House interfered in efforts by either agency to fight domestic terrorism, and what steps are being taken now, if any, to tackle the threat posed by violent white nationalists.

The letters also ask Mr. Wray and Mr. McAleenan to “definitively state that white supremacy and domestic terrorism represent a real danger to American lives.”

The FBI declined to comment when asked about the letters. DHS and the White House did not immediately respond to similar inquiries.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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