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House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism

House Judiciary split on how to address domestic extremism
© Greg Nash

Lawmakers traded barbs Wednesday over the root causes of domestic terrorism while House Judiciary Committee Democrats focused their attention on how the FBI can reboot after the Jan. 6 attack.

During Judiciary Committee hearing, lawmakers expressed an interest in expanding the information collected by the FBI and other agencies in order to better assess threats and head off a similar attack. 

“To truly understand what is driving this increase in hate crimes, and the link to violent extremists, we still need better and more comprehensive data,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerDemocrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones calls on Breyer to retire The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk MORE (D-N.Y.) told the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, arguing the FBI needed to simplify its reporting and make it easily accessible.

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"We also need to ensure that, once informed by the proper data, we dedicate resources towards addressing the greatest threats.”

The hearing comes as the committee’s counterpart in the Senate has asked the FBI to turn over its plans to fight domestic extremism, including asking the bureau to break down which of its efforts focused on white supremacists.

Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, said the FBI’s methods at categorizing crimes made it difficult to track how much violence committed by white nationalists and other domestic extremists has risen.

“The problem is that the Justice Department and the FBI choose not to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of white supremacism or white violence as a matter of policy and practice. They do not even collect accurate data regarding such attacks,” he told lawmakers.

The hearing quickly devolved into arguments over whom the government should focus on when seeking to boost its focus on domestic terror.

During the hearing Republicans fumed that Democrats were not focusing on the unrest caused by left-leaning groups.

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“Republicans condemned the violence that took place on the 6th. We condemn the violence that took place for 120 straight days in Portland,” ranking member Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTop House Republicans ask Harris for meeting on border The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - All US adults can get vaccine; decision Friday on J&J vax Waters: Fauci 'was being bullied' by Jordan during hearing MORE (R-Ohio) said during the hearing, complaining that Democrats see antifa as “a myth.”

Several others tried to focus on other groups as well.

Subcommittee Chairwoman Sheila Jackson LeeSheila Jackson LeeDemocrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations Race debate grips Congress MORE (D-Texas) had little patience for such arguments.

“There are no both sides in this debate. We must not be misled by efforts to divert the attention and accountability for these acts are right wing violence and terror. Any attempt to do so, for instance, that ‘the real problem is something called antifa’ is really irresponsible and belittles the seriousness of the threat of extreme right wing violence and misidentifies who the perpetrators predominantly are in this community,” she said.

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita DemingsTrump hands Rubio coveted reelection endorsement in Florida Democrats urge Biden to take executive action on assault-style firearms Vanita Gupta will fight for all as associate attorney general MORE (D-Fla.) issued a similar warning to Republicans.

"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle, if you want to keep score, you will lose," she said.

The hearing had not yet ended as of press time.