May 13, 2021 (UPI) — Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told Senators Wednesday that violent domestic extremists, particularly White supremacists, pose the greatest domestic threat to the United States.
The pair testified before the Senate appropriations committee as they made the case for Congressional funding for their respective agencies to combat domestic extremism and other threats.
“The department is taking a new approach to addressing domestic violent extremism,” Mayorkas said.
Mayorkas noted he had designated domestic violent extremism a “national priority area” with the department’s grant program, established a “domestic terrorism branch” within the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis and launched an internal review to identify possible extremists within the department.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the committee’s top Republican, criticized Garland over the Justice Department’s focus on pursuing charges against individuals involved in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, while accusing the agency of failing to prosecute those involved in looting and rioting during protests against police brutality over the summer.
Shelby accused Democrats of seeking to promote the belief that “all domestic, violent extremists are far-right White supremacists and that all Republicans are complicit in their actions,” asserting that “of course, both are false.”
Garland responded that the role of the Justice Department, which has arrested 430 people in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection, is to “investigate and prosecute violations of the criminal law regardless of ideology” but said he has “not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy” than the Capitol riot.
“There was an attempt to interfere with the fundamental passing element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power,” he said. “And if there has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize, this would be the one we prioritize because it is the most dangerous threat to our democracy.”
Garland further said the Justice Department is “deepening collaboration” with foreign nations to determine possible links between domestic extremists and similar extremists abroad in addition to sharing information with tech companies “to help them address the spread of domestic violent extremist activity online.”