White supremacy is the greatest domestic terrorism threat facing the United States, the Biden administration’s top law enforcement officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The comments were made by Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the rise of domestic extremism. The hearing largely focused on the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol as supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed the halls of Congress in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote.
“Domestic violent extremists pose an elevated threat in 2021, and in the FBI’s view, the top domestic violent extremist threat we face comes from racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race,” Garland told lawmakers, saying the Biden administration was dedicating increased resources to combating the threat.
The hearing came at the same time as former Trump officials’ testimony before House lawmakers about the Capitol riot.
Republicans on the Senate committee, however, rejected Garland’s argument and accused Democrats of seeking to politicize any investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. The GOP has largely stood steadfast behind Trump even after he was impeached in the House for his role in inciting the violence, and the House GOP ejected Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership position on Wednesday after she refused to back up the former president’s lies that the November election had been “stolen” from him.
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) asked if the Justice Department had ignored other racial justice protests against police brutality last year and had levied blame on Republicans unfairly.
“[Democrats] would have the American people believe that all domestic, violent extremists are far-right white supremacists and that all Republicans are complicit in their actions,” Shelby said.
The attorney general disputed those characterizations.
“We don’t care what the ideology is. Violations of law are pursued and are prosecuted,” Garland replied. “I think it’s fair to say that in my career as a judge, and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol.”
He later added that the insurrection was “an attempt to interfere with the fundamental element of our democracy: a peaceful transfer of power.”
More than 430 people have been arrested for their roles in the insurrection, Garland said Wednesday.