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FBI director calls antifa 'a real thing'

FBI director calls antifa 'a real thing'
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FBI Director Christopher Wray described antifa as "a real thing" during a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, noting that the bureau has open cases against individuals who self-identify as anti-fascist activists.

Wray, who was testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee as part of its worldwide threats hearing, was responded to questions about the level of threat the movement poses. 

"Antifa is a real thing. It’s not a fiction," Wray said of the far-left group.

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"We look at antifa as more of an ideology or a movement than we do an organization. We do have quite a number of properly predicated domestic terrorism investigations into violent anarchist extremists, any number of whom self-identify with the antifa movement," he added.

The FBI chief also said that some who identify with the antifa movement have been coalescing regionally in certain areas, and that the FBI is examining potential violence from these small groups or nodes.

"We are actively investigating the potential violence from these regional nodes, if you will," Wray said.

He was pressed repeatedly on the topic of antifa by both sides, but Democrats and Republicans framed their questions about antifa far differently, with Democrats appearing to seek responses with a low evaluation of the threat posed by antifa and Republicans appearing to seek ones with a higher threat evaluation.

"There have been statements by top people here in fact, [House Judiciary Committee] Chairman [Jerry] Nadler [D-N.Y.] has said on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives that basically antifa is a fantasy made up of the radical right or Fox News or something to that effect. Would you agree with that?" asked Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), a staunch defender of President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE.

"Is antifa a total fantasy, or is it real?" she added.

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"So when we hear officials say antifa is the biggest threat on the left, are they being correct?" asked Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonActing DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down Security boosted for lawmakers' travel around inauguration: report COVID-19 is wild card as Pelosi faces tricky Speaker vote Sunday MORE (D-Miss.), chairman of the panel.

Wray offered a similar response each time, that it is a movement not an organization, but that antifa is real and the bureau has domestic extremism cases opened on individuals who self-identify as part of it.

“We don’t really think of threats in terms of left or right at the FBI. We are focused on the violence, not the ideology," Wray also repeatedly said.

Racially motivated violent extremists, violent anarchist extremists, militia types, sovereign citizens and other groups all fall into the broader umbrella of domestic terrorism cases at the FBI, according to Wray.

The probings over antifa come as President Trump and members of his administration have sought to attribute violence and vandalism by protesters in Portland, Ore., as being part of it. 

“I think there are anarchists and far-left groups involved in the violence in Portland,” Attorney General William BarrBill BarrActing attorney general condemns Capitol riots, warns 'no tolerance' for violence at Biden inauguration Barr, White House counsel told Trump not to self-pardon: report Trump condemns riots, says he will focus on transition in taped remarks MORE said in testimony before Capitol Hill earlier this year. “I think antifa is involved in Portland.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have sought to deny that antifa is to blame for the violence while highlighting crimes committed by far-right and white supremacist organizations.

When asked in July by Austen Fletcher, a pro-Trump political activist, whether he disavows violence caused by antifa in Portland, Nadler described violence caused by the far-left movement as a myth.

“That’s a myth that’s being spread only in Washington, D.C.,” Nadler replied.