The latest white supremacist inspired mass shooting this weekend raises many troubling issues, including:
- the extent to which President Trump is to blame for inflammatory and racist rhetoric that may have inspired these actors;
- President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the threat posed by white supremacist; and
- his administration’s efforts to undermine efforts to monitor and prevent white supremacist violence.
While the first issue may be subject to debate, the partial timeline below documents President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the white supremacist threat and his administration’s efforts to undermine efforts to combat it thus increasing the likelihood of El Pasto-type shootings.
February 2016: Trump Refuses to Repudiate KKK Leader David Duke
On the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries, Trump refused to disavow and repudiate David Duke who had endorsed Trump. Trump feigned ignorance claiming he did not “know anything about David Duke,” when he had made references to him in the past.
May 2017: FBI-DHS Warn That White Supremacist Extremist Present Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence
The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a Joint Bulletin warning of the threat of white supremacist extremism.
August 2017: Charlottesville
After the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia for neo-Nazis, Klansmen, neo-Confederates and other white nationalist and right-wing militia groups led to violence, including the death of Heather Heyer, Trump blames both sides while saying there were “very fine people” on both sides.
2017: Trump Admin Guts Funding for Anti-White Supremacist Efforts, Stops Tracking White Supremacist Violence
In the Trump Administration’s first budget, it canceled grants to organizations working to counter violent extremism and dismantled an interagency task for on Countering Violent Extremism.
As the administration tried to claim that the threat of “black identity extremism” was a national security threat, it folded data tracking white supremacist violence into a general category of “racially motivated extremism”.
Source: Peter Beinart, Trump Shut Programs to Counter Violent Extremism, The Atlantic (Oct. 29, 2018). Natasha Lennard, Trump Administration Is Making It Harder to Find Out Whether It’s Fighting White Supremacist Terror, The Intercept (June 8, 2019).
October 2018: Trump Declares Himself a “Nationalist”
President Trump embraces the word “nationalist”, a term frequently used by white supremacists.
Late 2018: DHS Disbands Intelligence Unit Monitoring Homegrown Extremists
Trump administration disbands DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis which focused on the threat from homegrown violent extremists and domestic terrorists. The analysts there shared information with state and local law enforcement to help them protect their communities from these threats.
Sgt. Mike Abdeen with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department told The Daily Beast that his office used to receive a significant amount of material from I&A, but that the communications have dried up in recent months. For the last six months, he said, I&A has been mostly silent.
Source: Betsy Woodruff, Homeland Security Disbands Domestic Terror Intelligence Unit, Daily Beast (Apr. 2, 2019).
March 2019: Trump Does Not See White Nationalism As a Rising Threat After Christchurch Shooting
After the Christchurch shooter cited President Trump ““[a]s a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” Trump was asked whether he saw “white nationalism” as a rising threat? His response: “I don’t really.” His FBI Director, however, had testified that it was a persistent, pervasive threat.”
May 2019: FBI Warns Of Conspiracy Groups Such as QAnon
FBI memo warns that “”conspiracy-theory-driven domestic extremists,” including QAnon are likely to motivate extremists “to commit criminal or violent activity.”
Media Matters reports that:
On Twitter, President Donald Trump has amplified supporters of the conspiracy theory more than 20 times. Trump has also met with multiple supporters of the conspiracy theory at the White House, and a supporter of the conspiracy theory is co-chair of a coalition group for his reelection campaign.
Source: Jana Winter, Exclusive: FBI document warns conspiracy theories are a new domestic terrorism threat, Yahoo News (Aug. 1, 2019); Alex Kaplan, The FBI calls QAnon a domestic terror threat. Trump has amplified QAnon supporters on Twitter more than 20 times; Media Matters (Aug. 1, 2019).
July 2019: FBI Director Wray Testifies White Supremacist Are #1 Domestic Terrorist Threat
FBI Director Christopher Wray said that the FBI had made 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the last nine months and the majority of them were white supremacist related.
Alexandra Hutzler, FBI Director Christopher Wray Says a Majority of Domestic Terrorism Cases Are Motivated By White Supremacist Violence, Newsweek (July 23, 2019).