Top Judiciary Dem presses officials to provide data on hate crimes before next Congress

Top Judiciary Dem presses officials to provide data on hate crimes before next Congress
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is pressing senior federal officials to complete a series of unfulfilled information requests Democrats have made over the past two years related to domestic terror and hate crimes.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is expected to serve as the incoming panel chairman come January, asked top officials at the FBI, Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Monday to provide information about the Trump administration's policy and efforts to prevent hate crimes. He gave them a deadline of Dec. 31, which comes shortly before the start of the next Congress.

“In the next Congress, this Committee will likely examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups,” Nadler wrote in a letter to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, FBI Director Christopher Wray and DHS Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw Five memorable moments from Sarah Sanders at the White House MORE.

“We need to work together to study the disturbingly increasing number of hạte crimes, the growing threat of far right and right wing extremism, and the disparate treatment of minority communities in terrorism investigations,” he continued.

In his letter, Nadler highlighted the latest FBI assessment, which said hate crimes have jumped 17 percent since last year, with a majority of these crimes being motivated by race or ethnicity.

Nadler specifically pointed to a series of recent violent hate crimes to make his point, including the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the package bombs sent to Democratic lawmakers and other critics of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE.

The New York lawmaker — who has issued a flurry of information requests before Democrats gain subpoena power in January — slammed the Trump administration for canceling programs that work to reduce hate crimes.

“[T]here appears to be a politically driven effort to diminish programs that empower communities to counter the influence of extremist ideology. Reports indicate the Administration cancelled grants for organizations that help de-radicalize white supremacists and for researchers who develop media campaigns aimed at diminishing the online influence of these groups,” Nadler wrote.

“Reporting also suggests that the Administration remains focused on targeting specific racial and ethnic minorities as the suspected main sources of domestic terrorism,” he continued.

Nadler specifically pointed to a leaked DHS memo that revealed a “plan to track and surveil Sunni Muslims in the United States” as well as the FBI’s August 2017 intelligence assessment — which came amid police brutality protests — which cited “Black Identity Extremists” as a threat to law enforcement.

He said in addition to cutting down on these programs, Trump’s rhetoric is contributing to the hate crimes.

“These concerning trends in law enforcement play out against the backdrop of President Trump’s rhetoric. He calls himself a nationalist. He falsely claims that 'foreigners' are the primary sources of domestic terror,” Nadler wrote.

The Judiciary lawmaker asked these three officials to provide responses to three separate information requests Democrats sent in 2017 about hate crimes, and current intelligence assessments about hate crimes and how the Trump administration is responding to these findings.