Tags: DHS | Domesticterrorism | Trump | immigration

Ex-DHS Officials: Concerns About Domestic Terrorism Fell on 'Deaf Ears'

elizabeth newmann
Former DHS assistant secretary Elizabeth Neumann (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 26 August 2020 11:13 AM

Several former Department of Homeland Security officials say they left their posts because President Donald Trump didn’t take the threat of domestic terrorism seriously, Politico reports.

Former DHS assistant secretary Elizabeth Neumann left the department in April. Last week, she announced she was backing Joe Biden for president.

She isn’t the only ex-DHS employee who grew frustrated with the Trump administration. Miles Taylor, who served as chief of staff for former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and former general counsel for the agency John Mitnick both announced their support for Biden. 

Current and former DHS employees told Politico that Trump had an eye on one topic for DHS and that was the border and immigration enforcement. 

“At least in this administration,” Neumann told Politico, “there’s not going to be anything substantive done on domestic terrorism.”

Neumann said the threat of domestic terrorism began to play out not long after Trump was elected. DHS officials began to pick up on vandalism at several Jewish cemeteries. But, she noted it wasn’t until a public and violent display of white supremacy hit Charlottesville that DHS realized what was taking place.

But instead of focusing on the rising threat of homegrown extremists, senior DHS officials said they were told to focus on immigration.

Taylor said Trump ripped his boss if she wasn’t spending enough time at the border.

“Verbatim the president said, ‘Get your ass to the border, why are you not down there?’” Taylor said, recalling a conversation Trump had with Nielsen.

When DHS officials tried to address domestic terrorism, they said the administration didn’t take it seriously.

Taylor said he worked on a “dream draft” outlining what a national counterterrorism strategy for DHS should include. There was a focus on domestic terrorist threats, which officials say was cut down to “barely” reference the topic.

The final document has two short paragraphs on domestic terrorism. It states that the U.S. faced internal threats from “racially motivated extremism, animal rights extremism, environmental extremism, sovereign citizen extremism, and militia extremism.” It promises that the government would “investigate ties between domestic terrorists not motivated by radical Islamist ideologies and their overseas counterparts to more fully understand them.”

Taylor said they were told there would be a “separate domestic terrorism strategy.” That never happened.

Weeks after the strategy was released, a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

White House spokesperson Alyssa Farah told Politico the Trump administration takes the domestic terrorism threat seriously and ripped Taylor for being “ineffective at his job.”

“Our country is constantly facing dynamic threats ranging from domestic, to cyber, to international, to financial crimes,” she said in a statement. “Our brave federal law enforcement, national security, and Intelligence officials work around the clock to monitor every range of threats facing our nation, including domestic terror. This sounds more like a case of Miles Taylor being ineffective at his job, than an indictment of the brave men and women in security officials [sic], FBI, and federal law enforcement who work every day to protect our country from threats foreign and domestic.”

But when it came to boosting up efforts to protect against domestic terrorism, the Trump administration froze funding for the Office of Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention. Congress gave DHS $17 million in new funding.

“We were pushing the White House: ‘Make this a priority, talk about this, fight for money on Capitol Hill for this,’” Taylor said. “It was on deaf ears. You could not have seen a White House less interested in this.”

After a weekend of shootings took place last August, the White House became more interested in Neumann’s initiative. But officials didn’t want to call the problem “domestic terrorism,” she said.

While they were slow to warm up, she helped get DHS $80 million in the 2021 budget to prevent domestic terrorism and targeted violence, along with an additional $20 million in grant money for DHS to disburse. The House approved that new funding. But amid the election it is unclear if the bill will go anywhere.

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Politics
Several former Department of Homeland Security officials say they left their posts because President Donald Trump didn't take the threat of domestic terrorism seriously, Politico reports. Former DHS assistant secretary Elizabeth Neumann left the department in April. Last...
DHS, Domesticterrorism, Trump, immigration
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2020-13-26
Wednesday, 26 August 2020 11:13 AM
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