- Trump’s warnings about antifa diverted resources when the threat of right-wing extremism was growing.
- The FBI and Justice Department moved agents to Portland last summer despite having 1,000 open cases.
- Officials have repeatedly said that they view right-wing extremism as a bigger threat.
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Former President Donald Trump’s baseless warnings about antifa and far-left extremist threats caused federal authorities to divert federal authorities’ attention from credible right-wing threats, The New York Times reported.
Trump and those in his administration repeatedly claimed that antifa, a leaderless, non-hierarchial organization that has existed for decades, was responsible for the protests that ensued last summer following the death of George Floyd.
The former president seized on the opportunity to try and designate the group as a domestic terrorist organization.
Trump’s interest in the group and demand for authorities to investigate them did not stop the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism but it did divert key resources away from the threat when it was growing, the Times reported.
This included sending dozens of agents to Portland, Oregon, leaving some FBI and Justice Department officials limited resources to combat more pressing concerns, including the 1,000 domestic terrorism cases that were open at the time.
Trump’s aides attempted to suppress the use of the phrase “domestic terrorism” and White House and Justice Department officials stopped efforts to talk about right-wing threats publically, the Times reported.
Additionally, agents and prosecutors felt “pressured” to uncover a left-wing extremist criminal conspiracy that never ended up existing, while funding that was requested for analysts to examine social media posts for threats was denied.
In 2019, former Attorney General William Barr began an FBI briefing by asking what the agency was doing about antifa. Barr told the Times that there was no prioritization given to threats from the left and all threats were equally considered.
“The F.B.I. already had a robust program to combat violence driven by white supremacy and nationalism,” Barr said. “I wanted there to be a comparable one for antifa and antifalike groups.”
During the spring and summer, despite finding the right-wing boogaloo movement more of a threat, the FBI opened the same amount of investigations into both them and Antifa, 40 each.
The diversion of resources did not prevent authorities from monitoring militia groups. Agents in Michigan were able to learn that members of Wolverine Watchmen, a self-styled antigovernment “militia” group. planned to kidnap governors.
In October, six members of the group were charged with attempting to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer.