Officials skip Cruz-led hearing on ‘radical Islam’

Officials skip Cruz-led hearing on ‘radical Islam’
© Greg Nash

A pair of senior federal law enforcement figures declined to appear before a Senate subcommittee hearing led by Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day HHS official put on leave amid probe into social media posts Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE (R-Texas) on Tuesday attacking the Obama administration for its stance on “radical Islam.”

The Senate Judiciary oversight subcommittee had advertised testimony from both John Carlin, head of the Justice Department’s national security division, and Michael Steinbach, executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch.

But both declined the invitation in recent days, in what Cruz described as a refusal to discuss the administration’s “purging” of references to Islam.

“No one from this administration is even willing to show up and defend their scrubbing of anti-terror materials,” Cruz told the Senate chamber, which was packed with Muslim activists and others critical of Cruz’s stance.

“The administration has had over and over again ample evidence to step in and prevent these terrorists attacks, but the consequence of a willful blindness — of a policy that, as a matter of administration policy refused to acknowledge the threats — means that over and over again, this administration has allowed the threat to go forward.”

“We cannot defeat radical Islamic terrorist without acknowledging it exists and directing our resources to stop it.”

A Justice Department spokesman told The Hill that the officials had told Cruz’s office more than a week ago that they would not be appearing. 

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsAfter Florida school shooting, vows for change but no clear path forward Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Sunday shows preview: Russian charges, Florida shooting dominate coverage MORE (Del.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, criticized the former GOP presidential candidate for proceeding with the hearing and what he called his dangerous alienating of Muslims around the world.

“We can and must defeat terrorism without sacrificing our constitutional principles,” Coons said. “And to sacrifice these principles and blame over a billion Muslims ... only serves to divide Americans, to alienate the Muslim world and legitimate the murderous groups.”

Cruz and other conservatives have lambasted the Obama administration for its avoidance of the phrase “radical Islam,” which skeptics say lumps all Muslims in with extremists such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

They were especially vocal last week when, in an apparent effort to avoid spreading ISIS’s propaganda, the FBI redacted references to the extremist group and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a transcript of the 911 call made by Omar Mateen, the gunman in the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando earlier this month. 

The Justice Department changed course following the backlash and released the full transcript, but not after the political damage had been done.

For critics, the redactions were the latest evidence of the administration’s misplaced focus, following attacks at Fort Hood in Texas, San Bernardino, Calif., and elsewhere where they believed religion was improperly discounted.

“You cannot fight an enemy you do not acknowledge, you pretend does not exist and you refuse to confront,” Cruz claimed.

The White House’s position appeared to grow more difficult this month, following presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWoman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Trump: CNN, MSNBC 'got scammed' into covering Russian-organized rally Pennsylvania Democrats set to win big with new district map MORE’s embrace of the term “radical Islamism.”

A Justice Department spokesman said in a statement that it was “aggressively and successfully pursuing terrorist adversaries,” many of which have links to ISIS.

“We also continue to spend significant time and effort to counter ISIL and other terrorist groups’ propaganda and deny them unchallenged recruiting platforms to spread their messages of hate and intolerance,” said the spokesman, Marc Raimondi. ISIL is an alternate acronym for ISIS.