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Trump administration decides to stop funding efforts to counter far-right extremism

The Obama-era program appears dead.

Days after an anti-Semitic shooter left 11 dead in Pittsburgh, the Trump administration has gutted funding for efforts to counter far-right terror. CREDIT SAUL LOEB / GETTY
Days after an anti-Semitic shooter left 11 dead in Pittsburgh, the Trump administration has gutted funding for efforts to counter far-right terror. CREDIT SAUL LOEB / GETTY

Just a few days after the nation was rocked by a Trump supporter’s attempted bombing spree and an anti-Semitic shooter killing 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, the Trump administration has reportedly decided to end an Obama-era program dedicated to countering domestic terror.

The move, as NBC reported, deals specifically with the U.S.’s Countering Violent Extremism Grant Program. Launched in 2016 and overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the initiative was the first of its kind: a federal grant program dedicated solely to combating the right-wing extremist groups and ideologies that have grown in prominence over the past few years.

All told, the program was allocated $10 million to disburse, with recipients ranging from police departments to former white supremacists. More than two dozen organizations received funds.

Now, though, the Trump administration has apparently elected not to renew the program, meaning funding will cease after next July.

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One of those groups affected is Life After Hate, a group dedicated specifically to working with white supremacists to leave their ideology behind. Other recipients included academic projects aimed at deterring younger Americans from gravitating toward white supremacy.

The move “doesn’t surprise me at all,” Christian Picciolini, one of the co-founders of Life After Hate, told ThinkProgress. “[The administration’s] focus has always been on foreign terrorism from Islamic State-inspired attacks, not domestic extremism. It’s a complete failure of the administration to acknowledge that a domestic ‘white supremacist’ terrorist threat is already fertile within our borders.”

As The Atlantic’s Peter Beinart wrote:

The cuts stem… from two biases. First, in keeping with their law-and-order mentality, Trump officials would rather empower the police to arrest suspected terrorists than work with local communities to prevent people from becoming terrorists in the first place, as the Office of Community Partnerships did. Second, they believe the primary terrorist threat to Americans is jihadism, not white supremacy.

The administration’s reported decision comes on the heels of a spate of domestic terror across the country. Even the lawyers for a violent right-wing extremist in Kansas — a Trump fan who had planned to bomb Somali immigrants — claimed this week that their client was specifically motivated by Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric.

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It also follows two years of notable increase in any number of metrics pertaining to white supremacist violence. A report earlier this year from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that white supremacist murders had “far surpass[ed]” deaths attributable to Islamist extremists. A separate ADL report noted that, from 2016 to 2017, anti-Semitic violence had spiked some 60 percent in the U.S. — “the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979.”

A 2017 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) summed up the problem: “Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent).”

And that’s not all. As The Daily Beast reported this week, the FBI has also placed less of an emphasis on combating far-right terror under the Trump administration, with one FBI retiree saying the agency currently gives far-right terror threats “the lowest priority.”

Of course, any move toward snuffing out domestic terror ideologies would risk catching Trump supporters in their midst. From Charlottesville, Virginia, to last week’s bombs mailed to Democratic leadership, several violent right-wing extremists have espoused their fervent support for Trump. With the 2020 campaign officially kicking off shortly, there’s little reason to think that will change — and the administration will provide even fewer resources now to help combat the threat.