Sen. Ted Cruz asked the head of the FBI on Tuesday to conduct a criminal investigation into anti-fascist activists known as antifa, comparing them to members of the Ku Klux Klan.
Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, made the remarks during an FBI oversight hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee while discussing recent acts of violence attributed to antifa.
“I am concerned that these are not isolated instances but rather this is a pattern, an organization that is engaged in masked, anonymous, violent terrorism,” Mr. Cruz said.
Speaking to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, Mr. Cruz said he would be asking federal investigators to launch an investigating into antifa under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The FBI, said Mr. Cruz, “has significant tools to go after organizations, criminal enterprises that engage, that use anonymity, that use masks to carry out violence. Groups like the Klan, groups like at times the Mafia. And I will today be sending a letter to you and the Department of Justice asking the Department to open a RICO investigation into antifa, because I believe they are engaged in a similarly coordinated effort.”
Mr. Wray replied that he looked forward to reading Mr. Cruz’s letter but suggested that the FBI is unlikely to probe Antifa as a whole.
“The FBI doesn’t investigate ideology, we investigate violent criminal activity, and if it’s fueled by some ideology then that’s how it gets wrapped into our mandate. And so, for us, antifa, we view as more of an ideology than an organization,” Mr. Wray said.
Nonetheless, Mr. Wray said the FBI has launched a number of investigations into alleged violent anarchist extremists, including several involving individuals who subscribe to “antifa-like ideology.”
Antifa has faced increased scrutiny in recent weeks from Republicans including Mr. Cruz and President Trump, among others, after an incident earlier this month in which mask-clad members attacked conservative writer Andy Ngo during a rally in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Cruz and Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, subsequently cited the assault while introducing a Senate resolution last week calling for antifa to be officially designated a domestic terrorist organization.
Mr. Trump, on his part, described antifa as “sick, bad people” while describing the assault last week.