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Domestic Extremists Motivated By Election Fraud ‘Narrative’ Could Commit More Violence This Year, Threat Assessment Finds

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Topline

There’s an elevated risk of violence this year from domestic extremists motivated by the right’s “narrative of fraud” in the 2020 presidential election, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Covid-19 restrictions and conspiracy theories, according to an unclassified report from the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Key Facts

The threat assessment found that extremists motivated by biases against minorities and “perceived government overreach” will continue to drive radicalization and violent mobilization.

Racially motivated extremists, and militia extremists, are the most lethal domestic extremist threat to the U.S. in 2021 — and racially motivated extremists are “most likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks,” the report states.

Key Background

President Joe Biden directed the DOJ, DHS and ODNI to assess the threat of domestic violent extremism shortly after his inauguration, just weeks after the Jan. 6 attack. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called domestic extremism the most “lethal and persistent terrorism-related threat” during a House committee hearing on Wednesday. Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly and groundlessly claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud, and has continued to do so out of office after a legal campaign to challenge the results petered out with scores of suits getting tossed out of courts for lack of evidence. Trump has been accused of inciting his supporters before the Jan. 6 riot with false claims. 

Tangent

The Trump administration portrayed foreign-based terrorism as the primary concern for DHS. In Oct. 2018, the National Strategy for Counterterrorism stated, “Our principal terrorist enemies are radical Islamist terrorist groups that seek to conduct attacks globally, violate our borders, and radicalize and recruit potential extremists within the United States and abroad.” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 2 that the number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations doubled since the time he took office in 2017. 

Further Reading

Wray Stresses Role Of Right-Wing Extremism In Hearing About Jan. 6 Riot (NPR) 

Domestic Extremism Is Most ‘Lethal And Persistent’ Terrorism Threat To U.S., Says Mayorkas (Forbes)

White House rebuffed attempts by DHS to make combating domestic terrorism a higher priority (CNN)

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