According to deep dive into how the U.S. government was caught by surprise by the scale of the assault on the U.S. Capitol, the New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump’s Justice Department, at the behest of Attorney General Bill Barr and the president, was moving money and people away from keeping an eye on rightwing extremists and militias to focus on the threat of Antifa.
The report notes that FBI officials had been waving red flags about the growing threat of right-wing extremists who were becoming bolder after Trump was elected in 2016 — but those warnings were brushed aside by higher-ups who wanted to focus on leftwing “thugs and anarchists” because the president was looking for a “winning” issue for his 2020 re-election campaign.
According to the report, Trump was, “… struggling to find a winning campaign theme, [and] hit on a message that he stressed over and over: The real domestic threat to the United States emanated from the radical left, even though law enforcement authorities had long since concluded it came from the far right.”
“It was a message that was quickly embraced and amplified by his attorney general and his top homeland security officials, who translated it into a shift in criminal justice and national security priorities even as Mr. Trump was beginning to openly stoke the outrage that months later would culminate in the storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists,” the Times reports.
According to the report, Justice Department officials started diverting money and manpower in late spring and summer this past year as activists took to the streets to protest racial injustice.
The report states, “Justice Department officials began shifting federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents from investigations into violent white supremacists to focus on cases involving rioters or anarchists, including those who might be associated with the Antifa movement. One Justice Department prosecutor was sufficiently concerned about an excessive focus on Antifa that the official went to the department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, telling his office that politics might have played a part.”
However those warnings went unheeded with federal prosecutors and agents now stating they felt “felt pressure to uncover a left-wing extremist criminal conspiracy that never materialized.”
“White House and Justice Department officials stifled internal efforts to publicly promote concerns about the far-right threat, with aides to Mr. Trump seeking to suppress the phrase ‘domestic terrorism’ in internal discussions, according to a former official at the Department of Homeland Security,” the Times reports. “Requests for funding to bolster the number of analysts who search social media posts for warnings of potential violent extremism were denied by top homeland security officials, limiting the department’s ability to spot developing threats like the post-Election Day anger among far-right groups over Mr. Trump’s loss.”
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