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White supremacists top US domestic terror threat: Attorney General

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Attorney General Merrick Garland (L) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (R) are at Hart Senate Office Building, on May 12, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

US Attorney General has warned that domestic violent extremist groups, particularly those who advocate for the superiority of the white race, pose the greatest threat to the United State.

Testifying to a senate hearing on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the threat of “lethality is higher than it ever was” in the United States.

Citing the deadly January 6 assault by Trump’s supporters on the US Capitol, Garland said it was “the most dangerous threat to democracy.”

“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 told the senate.

The issue of far-right and white supremacist groups was brought back into focus after thousands of Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol building on January 6, as the chamber was certifying Electoral College's votes.

Trump encouraged his loyalists to “be wild” and “fight like hell…to take back our county” before the Congress ratifies President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the November 3, 2020 election. 

The White supremacists, who enjoy support from Trump, played a key role in the attack that left five people dead.

Garland said the FBI recently warned that the top domestic violent extremist threat facing the country is from “racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists, specifically those who advocate for the superiority of the white race.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was also testifying to the senate, warned about racially or ethnically motivated extremism in the US.

He warned that people tied to right-wing militia groups are the most likely to target police and government employees and buildings.

“The threats posed by domestic violent extremism are often fueled by false narratives, conspiracy theories, and extremist rhetoric spread through social media and other online platforms,” he added.

Some congressional Republicans and supporters of Trump, however, sought to equate the attack on the Capitol with violence sparked last summer at government buildings in cities like Portland, Oregon, during the Black Lives Matter protests.

“What is the actual difference between these acts besides the groups carrying them out?” asked Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the panel.

“How can you assure this committee and the American people that the Department of Justice under your leadership is pursuing all who commit such acts with equal vigor?”

Garland, in response, said the Justice Department seeks to prosecute all crimes regardless of ideology but that it also has to set priorities.

“There has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize,” Garland said. “This would be the one we prioritize because it is the most dangerous threat to our democracy.”

Garland’s defense of the administration of President Joe Biden came as the White House prepares to announce findings and recommendations of a review into domestic terrorism led by the National Security Council.

Trump wanted troops to protect his supporters at Capitol riot

In a related development, Trump's former Pentagon chief, who also testified to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, said the former president wanted National Guard troops to protect his supporters during the Capitol siege.

Christopher Miller said Trump asked him at a meeting — three days before the riot — whether the District of Columbia’s mayor had requested National Guard troops for January 6, the day Congress was to ratify Biden’s presidential election victory.

Miller said that Trump told him to “do whatever is necessary to protect demonstrators that were executing their constitutionally protected rights.”

But National Guard troops did not arrive at the scene until hours after the building was overrun.

Miller said he was concerned in the days before the day of riot that sending troops to Washington would fan fears of a military coup or that Trump advisers were advocating martial law.

Federal prosecutors later wrote in a court filing that they have strong evidence that Capitol siege rioters intended to "capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government."

The Justice Department, which is leading the investigation into the deadly attack, has so far arrested more than 430 people across the country, Garland said.

Prosecutors have begun informally negotiating plea deals, but some defendants have been fighting the charges.

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