President Barack Obama wants to "downplay" the threat of radical Islamic terrorism because "he wants it to go away," House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said Tuesday.
McCaul's comments to Fox News come two days after 49 people were shot dead in a Florida gay nightclub at the hands of Omar Mateen, a killer who declared his support of the Islamic State in a 9-1-1 call during the murders.
"The fact is, it hasn't gone away and won't go away for quite some time," the Texas Republican said on the "Fox and Friends
" program. "You have to define the enemy to beat it; that's a basic military strategist idea. We have to define it as radical Islamism and defeat it."
McCaul also spoke about the stabbing death of French police chief
Jean-Baptiste Salvaing and his wife in front of their 3-year-old child at the hands of a Muslim man under investigation for terror ties. The attacker live-streamed the murders on Facebook.
McCaul said the threat levels in France, particularly during the Euro Cup soccer tournament, have been "very severe."
McCaul will moderate a presentation on Tuesday by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and other intelligence officials during a classified briefing before Congress. Next week he plans to hold Oversight Committee hearings centering on the FBI's investigations of Mateen in 2013 and 2014.
"Not like this guy has a clean slate," the congressman said. "He has some issues, and in addition he traveled to Mecca, on two occasions, to Saudi Arabia. We want to know about those travels and what he was doing over there and who he met with. So I think there are a lot of unanswered questions."
McCaul does agree, though, that there has to be care taken in using rhetoric that could help inflame Islamist recruiting.
"The fact is, it's a perverted form of Islam, which is a religion," said McCaul. "You can't escape the fact that it is what it is. It's radicalized, you know, Islamist extremism. To pretend like it's something else defies reality. "
Meanwhile, McCaul does think that all terrorist pathways into the United States need to stop, whether it's through more vetting, such as with the Safe Act that stopped Syrian refugees from entering the US.
"We put a pause on that program in the House," said McCaul. "It didn't pass the Senate, but we did that. That was my bill in the House. I think we need to look at securing the border, to stop them from coming in."
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