Congress is working on a bill that would empower the FBI, Homeland Security and Justice departments with a legal framework and resources to establish domestic terrorism offices in the U.S. These entities would monitor, prosecute and investigate perpetrators of terrorism around the country.
Federal law defines domestic terrorism as actions dangerous to human life that:
- violate federal or state criminal law
- appear intended to intimidate or coerce civilians; to influence government policy by intimidation or coercion; or to impact government conduct by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping, and
- occur within the U.S.
Each office would have to to issue a biannual report to Congress assessing domestic terrorism threats with a specific focus on white supremacists.
There are currently no criminal penalties associated with the definition of domestic terrorism and federal officials have been reluctant to label groups engaged in these activities as domestic terrorists.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerold Nadler (D-NY) promoted the bill on Wednesday noting, “These are reasonable, measured policies to help focus the federal government’s resources on the threats that continue to terrorize and kill Americans.”
How effective will the legislation be after Democrats voted down an amendment proposed by Rep. Ken Buck (D-CO) that would label Antifa and its affiliates as domestic terrorists?
The left-wing anarchist organization and its affiliates use violence to intimidate and punish political opponents. It champions itself as a political protest movement that is militantly opposed to fascism and other forms of extreme right-wing ideology.
It has evolved into a major domestic terror threat, committing more than 88 incidents of violent acts, following closely behind white supremacy groups with 100 domestic terrorism-related arrests by the FBI between October 2018 and June 2019.
Republicans say the bill should address politically-motivated violence initiated by leftist activist groups that target conservatives, but Democrats are solely focused on boosting law enforcement response to threats posed by white supremacists.
House lawmakers continue to minimize the danger Antifa poses to the public and are using their political power to stymie efforts to use tougher enforcement measures.
“What we are overlooking in this bill is that it is one-sided,” said Buck as the legislation is being prepared for a full vote on the House floor.
“There is at least an equal level of hate, violence and terror coming from the political left directed at conservatives and people who support the president. At its core, the people perpetrating these acts are using the same tactics as white supremacists,” he added.
“This bill goes nowhere,” Buck said. “It will get very few if any Republican votes and it will go nowhere in the Senate. If we are serious about attacking white supremacism, which I absolutely want to do — and did as a prosecutor — let’s make this a bipartisan bill.”
Some Democratic lawmakers and media personalities have openly embraced the movement. Keith Ellison posted a selfie holding an Antifa handbook last year: “At @MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike(s) fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump,” Ellison tweeted in January 2018. It was accompanied by a photo of him holding the book “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook” by Mark Bray. He later deleted it. Chuck Todd gave Bray a platform on the NBC show Meet the Press to explain why Antifa’s political violence is ethical.
Rep. Maxine Waters met hard-left political operative Joseph Alcoff in 2016. He is currently facing felony charges for his alleged involvement in an Antifa mob beating of two Marines in Philadelphia.
Antifa member Van Spronsen firebombed a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility and nearby vehicles in Tacoma, Washington in July 2019. Police killed him in a shootout after he attempted to set off a large propane tank connected to the facility.
His group, the John Brown Gun Club, was featured in a May 2019 episode of CNN’s United Shades of America. Host W. Kamau Bell has solicited donations from the public on the group’s behalf. CNN anchors Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon have also defended Antifa on-air.