Leahy, other senators question domestic terrorism response

Vermont’s senior senator is among two dozen Senate members pressing the Trump administration on its responses to domestic terrorism.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., led a group of Democratic senators in questioning the administration’s approach to far-right extremist groups, according to an announcement from Leahy’s office.

Patrick Leahy
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. File photo courtesy of U.S. Senate
In a letter sent to acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke last week, the senators wrote that the vehicle assault on a crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead and 19 injured was “likely” an act of domestic terrorism.

“Yet as our nation confronts the problem of growing racial, religious and even political hatred, we are concerned that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may not be adequately addressing one of the most significant threats of domestic terrorism,” the letter states.

Twenty-three other senators joined Leahy in signing the letter, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

According to the letter, early this year the Trump administration froze Department of Homeland Security grants that fund groups devoted to countering extremism of several types.

When the grantees were announced in June, funding was not extended to the organization Life After Hate, which works to rehabilitate former neo-Nazis and domestic extremists.

“Several new grantees were added, but it now appears the focus on far-right extremism has been significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated,” the letter states.

The senators wrote the trend is “particularly troubling” because of concerns that the grant program for countering violent extremism is focused solely on the Muslim-American community.

The senators suggest there has been a pattern of reducing scrutiny of far-right groups under the current administration, noting that President Donald Trump did not make a public statement after the bombing of a Minnesota mosque earlier this month.

“Far-right extremist groups, including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, and other groups motivated by racial and ethnic hatred, present a significant risk of violence and domestic terrorism,” the letter states.

The group asked Homeland Security to provide information about why funding for Life After Hate was withdrawn, as well as information about assessments the department made about potential threats from white supremacists and other far-right groups in the six months before the attack in Charlottesville.

Homeland Security spokesperson Anna Franko said Monday that the department does not comment on correspondence with the secretary “as a matter of policy.”

However, concerning the anti-terrorism grant awards, Franko said the Trump administration’s decision to fund different groups than initially announced by the outgoing Obama administration in January was not based on the specific terror threat each group focused on.

Rather, the Trump administration selected different grant recipients based on proposals’ “effectiveness, sustainability and engagement with law enforcement.” Sixteen of the 26 groups funded through the Homeland Security grant program focus on countering all violent extremism, including violent white supremacists, according to Franko.

“Reports in the media falsely claim that a specific organization was not included in the final grantees list because of its ideological focus,” Franko said in a statement. “No applicant was considered or rejected on such a basis.”

If you read us, please support us.

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer.

We moderate every comment. Please go to our FAQ for the full policy.

Elizabeth Hewitt

Recent Stories

Thanks for reporting an error with the story, "Leahy, other senators question domestic terrorism response"
  • Tim Vincent

    Now we know, at last, that Leahy and his colleagues hate Nazis.
    That’s good.
    The problem is that in their campaign to demonize half of the country (Trump voters), anyone to the right of Bernie Sanders is branded a “Nazi.”

    • Jeff Noordsy

      Half the country did NOT vote for Mr. Trump. He received votes from roughly 26% of the registered voters. That’s an awful lot less than half of the country.

      • Richard Ley

        How do you know how many people voted for Donald Trump for president when there is so much illegal voting going on in the country including the state of Vermont and no one is willing to stand up and prevent it from happening

        • Daphne Black

          By this logic, if there is so much illegal voting going on then we don’t know if Trump was really even elected.

          • Andrew Fusco

            Trump was elected. Nearly 63 million people in thirty states (+2 Maine) elected him president. By early voting measures, Trump exceeded expectations. The violence, decay, destruction, etc. occurring in 2017 leads me to believe 2020 will mirror results of 1972. But don’t tell anybody, we’re not talking about it.

          • JohnGreenberg

            Well said!

        • Mike McNally

          Every non-partisan study ever done on “illegal voting” has found no such problem. http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2017/jun/22/ainsley-earhardt/following-trump-voter-fraud-allegations-claim-57-m/

          Here’s north carolina post-2016 audit, which found a few dozen non-citizen voters out of 4.8 million votes cast. Those non0citizens were also legal immigrants, not “illegal”.

          Just because most people are smart enough to see Trump for who he is, a conman, does not mean you need to make up fantasies about illegal voting.

  • Paul Richards

    “Vermont’s senior senator is among two dozen Senate members pressing the Trump administration on its responses to domestic terrorism.”
    Where were they when Obama was downplaying the Fort Hood massacre as workplace violence and offering nothing regarding the killing of Kathryn Steinle by an illegal alien?
    This is just more partisan BS by this entrenched statist group who are blinded by their elite status, power and hatred for anyone who dare attempt to try and protect and preserve any thread of the founder’s check on them.

    • Richard Ley

      I have called the news stations including Vermont Digger and I have called the offices of Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch several times to ask why none of them are speaking out against the violence in America especially taking place as closely as Middlebury Vermont in their backyard.

      I have yet to get a sensible response from any of them nor do you ever get a response to any other question you ask of these people that supposedly represent Vermont in Washington DC..

      They are a disgrace to the state of Vermont

      • Paul Richards

        I too have written to our “elected officials” on many issues specific to Vermont and in every instance the response (if I got one) was a form letter espousing their beliefs which were contrary to the interests of real Vermonters. Why, for example would our “delegation” write to the state of NY to urge them to allow only union contractors to bid on a bridge project when Vermont has no union bridge building companies?

  • Peter Everett

    So, far right groups are to blame. Shouldn’t Leahy also be looking at groups that lean towards his persuasion? Was it far right groups at Middlebury or Berkeley? Funny how our senior Senator can always fault those who don’t agree with his, skewered, point of view. He has been often times described as the “most partisan” politician in Congress. Why Digger continues to post his one sided views is beyond my menial ability to understand. My guess is Leahy is a donor to Digger, therefore, he is afforded the coverage.
    If we were only capable of recalling all 535 members of Congress (as well as the administration). Only in dreams. (I disdain our present government. None I feel are trustworthy or truthful. They would all sell their souls to the highest bidder)).

    • Mike McNally

      ButWhatAbout college students hitting a eugenics loving author! That’s just as bad as neo-nazis running over protestors, killing one, beating others, preaching genocide and being more heavily armed than the cops watching them.

      Digger isn’t one sided, you just can’t see anything other than your hatred of the left. You’ve forgotten Nazis are synonymous with evil.

  • Gary Murdock

    I’m curious…was Leahy concerned last year, and did Digger report it, when Obama did the same thing? This was Schumers response a year ago to Obama’s cuts:

    “Slashed funding for local counterterrorism and other security measures in the White House’s budget proposal is a “punch in the gut” that couldn’t come at a worse time, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.”
    Why did Leahy find it acceptable for Obama to cut funding for groups that cooperated with law enforcement, but is bothered when Trump reverses course? This is just another installment of The Swamp Fights Back!

  • rosemariejackowski

    Remember Middlebury…..

    There are hate groups right here….


  • Peter Chick

    Let’s see, they are checking id’s at the bus stop. Next week a van is used to commit an act of terrorism. Any questions?

  • David Bell

    Right wingers to any act of violence committed by a Muslim: All Muslims everywhere must immediately and unequivocally denounce this act immediately, and Obama must use the words Radical Islam in every speech.

    Right wingers when Nazis commit murder: Yeah violence is bad, but the left…. but the left. And you want Trump to denounce Nazis!?! Why, because he’s white… you racist!

    The sad part is they genuinely don’t see the contradiction.

  • rosemariejackowski

    “If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize — very publicly and very sincerely — to all the widows and the orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions — including the awful bombings — have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims and repair the damage from the many American bombings and invasions. There would be more than enough money. Do you know what one year of the US military budget is equal to? One year. It’s equal to more than $20,000 per hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.” WILLIAM BLUM

    • Homer sulham

      I wonder how many are widowed, impoverished and tortured under communism?

  • Art Fern

    Oh my, I couldn’t agree more Peter.

  • Rich Lachapelle

    As repugnant and vile as their views are, “nazis, skinheads, clansmen, white supremacists etc” are a STATISTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT AND IRRELEVANT force in today’s social and political scene and are almost universally reviled. They have been around and held their rallys for decades but are only being used now in the media as a means of demonizing and associating with our lawfully-elected President. Ignoring them in the media and by counter-protesters staying home is the best way to deal with them. The alt-left opposition only gives the hate groups the headlines they seek. I understand that some people hate our President with a passion and look for any excuse to tar him but the response to the lawful assembly and expression of these extremist groups is now being used to bludgeon our First Amendment rights of free expression and is mostly disingenuous. The violence on BOTH sides in inexcusable.
    For Sen. Leahy and his like-minded colleagues to equate the threat posed by these ragtag groups in the post-McVeigh age to the dangers our Nation has already been subjected to by radical islamists is the height of political opportunism.

  • Nato (Nate Orshan)

    Far-right violent extremists (e.g., Nazis, Klansmen, white supremacists) are “STATISTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT AND IRRELEVANT”?

    It turns out your tax dollars paid for a study released in April 2017 (“Countering Violent Extremism: Actions Needed to Define Strategy and Assess Progress of Federal Efforts”, http://www.gao.gov/assets/690/683984.pdf). The study added up all the “successful” domestic terror attacks following 9/11 and ending 12/31/2016.

    The totals:

    – 106 people in the US killed by far-right violent extremists
    – 119 people in the US killed by radical Islamic violent extremists

    – 62 attacks in the US by far-right violent extremists
    – 23 attacks in the US by radical Islamic violent extremists

    OK, so far-right violent extremists were responsible for 47% of the deaths and 73% of the attacks. If you’re at all worried about domestic terrorism from radical Islamic extremists (and actually you shouldn’t be, though that’s another argument), then you should be REALLY worried about far-right extremists. They’re almost as effective at killing people, and they’re way more effective at perpetrating a sheer number of violent attacks.

    But what of far-left violent extremists? Surely there must have been *some* fatalities from them in the US during this period?

    Nope. “According to the ECDB [U.S. Extremist Crime Database], activities of far left wing violent extremist groups did not result in any fatalities during this period.”

    So there goes that “The violence on BOTH sides in inexcusable” statement, at least as far as fatalities are concerned. Far-right extremists are way, WAY more likely to kill people than far-left extremists.

    (Hat tip to PolitiFact for pointing me to the 4/2017 GAO study: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/aug/16/look-data-domestic-terrorism-and-whos-behind-it/)

  • Jeff Noordsy

    If you’d prefer, we could go back to the 19th century and work through the same exercise. The 9/11 attack would be included, as would all of the murders committed by the Klan and other “far right violent extremists.” I think the numbers you would see would be even more skewed than they are now.

  • Nato (Nate Orshan)

    For anybody else reading this thread: The GAO study I described states that it’s only concerned with domestic terrorism. Per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_terrorism , domestic terrorism is ” terrorism targeting victims ‘within a country by a perpetrator with the same citizenship’ as the victims.” That explains why 9/11 was omitted.

    For anybody else trying to make up their mind about what to be concerned about: Trust data. Trust numbers. And the numbers say you should be as concerned about right-wing extremist Americans as you are about Islamist extremist Americans. In fact, you should probably even more concerned, as the GAO data show that right-wing extremists successfully kill more often.

  • Steve Baker

    I’m actually surprised it’s as high as 9%. It doesn’t seem like much of a threat.
    But then again 59% of Americans still believe there was someone on the grassy knoll.
    6% of Americans think the lunar landing was a hoax.
    And lastly 95% of people didn’t believe if we liked our healthcare we could keep our healthcare.