This ex-Trump official is exposing the president's complicity in far-right terrorism
Many of President Donald Trump’s allies have downplayed the threat that far-right white nationalist and white supremacist groups pose from a domestic terrorism standpoint. But conservative Republican Elizabeth Neumann, who served as assistant secretary of counterterrorism and threat prevention at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is warning that such groups do, in fact, pose a major threat in the United States — and Trump, according to Neumann, is inciting such groups.
Neumann, who voted for Trump in 2016 and served in DHS under his administration, recently came out in support of former Vice President Joe Biden in an ad by Republican Voters Against Trump. And during an interview with National Public Radio’s Steve Inskeep, she stressed that Trump is encouraging extremist groups when he should be condemning them.
Neumann told NPR:
If you had a very clear voice at the top, from the president, from other senior leaders in the Republican Party, denouncing this and warning conservatives — warning Republicans — that these groups are trying to recruit you based on things that might sound like a typical conservative belief, but behind it is this insidious, ugly, evil thing, if we had more clear voices talking about it — it would somewhat inoculate people from that recruitment and that radicalization. But instead, we have the opposite effect. We have the president not only pretty much refusing to condemn, but throwing fuel on the fire, creating opportunities for more recruitment through his rhetoric.
He uses rhetoric to scare people. This is a known psychological tactic that if you get people to fear, they tend to follow you to the solution of 'How are we going to save ourselves?' And his answer is, 'It's me. If you vote for me, I will save you,' ... Well, for some people, the way that they think that they need to protect themselves, it's more than just a vote for a president. It's 'let me go kill people.'
One of the worst terrorist attacks of the Trump era occurred on August 3, 2019, when a white nationalist gunman killed more than 20 people in El Paso, Texas, targeting his victims simply because most of them were Latino. Neumann, during the NPR interview, argued that the attacker was influenced by Trump’s rhetoric.
“When you see the El Paso attacker, his manifesto was citing language and rhetoric that comes from the president’s campaign rallies about an invasion from Mexico and how we’ve got to protect our country,” Neumann told NPR.
She compared the growth of the dangerous far-right movement to the development of ISIS:
"They borrowed from ISIS's playbook and they learned how to radicalize people online," she says. In the post-Sept. 11 United States, domestic extremists also adopted an emphasis on smaller attacks that could be carried out quickly with limited planning. What Neumann saw was "the pivot to bring your own weapon to the fight, use whatever you have: a knife, a gun, a vehicle, vehicle ramming," she says. "We've seen a number of vehicle rammings this summer, in fact."
But the White House was reluctant to name the threat directly.
"[If] we use the term 'domestic terrorism' or we talk about the white supremacist language, that seems to derail things at the White House," she said.
Trump and his allies have been making the baseless claim that the Antifa movement is a source of domestic terrorism. But Antifa, for all their militant rhetoric, do not engage in or encourage the type of attacks favored by either white nationalist and white supremacist groups or radical Islamist groups like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram or ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria).
Neumann told NPR: “If you look at the people that have been arrested for” acts of violence recently, “by and large…. it’s the Boogaloo movement, or it’s an association with QAnon. It’s the right side of the spectrum. It is not Antifa….. The threat of domestic terrorism is not from Antifa. It is from these right-wing movements.”