President Trump: “We’re not letting them in, but they’re trying to flood our country. The nation faces a major threat, but it’s not the one President Donald Trump is talking about. What is the biggest threat to the United States right now? Heidi Beirich: Well, I think on the terrorism front, it’s white supremacists. More people have been killed by white supremacists since 9/11 than by people who believe these kinds of extremist twisted forms of Islam. In 2006, there were six incidents of terror-related violence on U.S. soil. In 2017 that number was 65. That’s nearly a 1,000% increase in a decade and most of those are the result of far-right violence. The last few years alone have given us several high-profile examples … like the Pittsburgh synagogue attack … the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that saw a woman killed … and the Charleston Church massacre. Jason Downard: That’s our major goal, is we want an all-white nation. We want, you know, ’cause we believe we’re the superior race. We believe that we were here first. This display of violence has been decades in the making and for years, some have been trying to warn us about this very moment. Hey fam. I’m Imaeyen. In part one of our three-part series, we’re taking a look at the explosion of far-right extremism, and looking at what, if anything, the government has done to combat it. You will not replace us! You will not replace us! This is America. White power! Scenes like these have become more commonplace because groups like these are more prevalent. The United States is in the middle of a surge of far-right violence. Two-thirds of politically-motivated violent attacks in 2017 were tied to far right-wing ideologies. It’s the increase in these types of attacks that interests Heidi Beirich. She’s an expert on extremism, and for years has been studying the growth of right-wing violence in the U.S. And we’ve agreed not to disclose her location for safety. Heidi Beirich: Usually far-right extremism is exemplified by two things: Either extreme anti-government positions, and by that I don’t mean like low taxes, I mean literally opposed to sort of the federal government and the idea that exists. And then as you get more radical on the far-right, you start having notions of white supremacy and racism [becomes] part of the thinking. Globally the number of attacks dropped between 2014 to 2017, but recently the United States has seen a surge in what’s been called “terror-related violence” by the Global Terrorism Database. And Beirich says the far-right increase happening in the U.S. right now is also occurring in some European nations because of a commonality all these countries share. Where you’re seeing far-right movements increase is where you have a white population that feels under threat by growing minority or immigrant populations. And so the problem with white supremacist terrorism isn’t going to go away. Most of the 65 ideologically extreme incidents that happened in 2017 were linked to anti-government, fascist, anti-Muslim, homophobic, anti-Semitic, or anti-immigrant motivations … like the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where a driver rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing anti-racism protester Heather Heyer. That rally included members of the alt-right, neo-Nazis and white nationalists. And right now we’re about to meet the man who tried to warn the country about this far-right swell way before it even happened. Daryl Johnson is the man who told the U.S. government it should brace for a resurgence of right-wing violence all the way back in 2009. Daryl Johnson: You know, on the Republican side, there was absolutely no interest in listening to what we had to say, which I thought was sad. And what I find staggering is that, you know, I’m a conservative, I’m a Republican, and yet I could call out this threat for what it is. So, Johnson foresaw this. But what made him predict it? President Obama: I, Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear … Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts: That I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully … Johnson: But It wasn’t until we had the 2008 election that we saw a resurgence in these groups. We had the first time African American president, which really agitated a lot of the racist groups. This was kind of their worst nightmare come true. And then we also had the economic downturn in ‘08 which provided fertile ground for a lot of people to join anti-government groups. Johnson was so worried about a rise in right-wing extremism, he testified before Congress in 2012. His testimony came in a post-9/11 nation when the U.S. government focused heavily on Al Qaeda. For Johnson this wasn’t some partisan issue. He was a third-generation Republican trying to highlight what he saw as a security threat. Johnson: Eight members of the Hutaree, an extremist militia in Michigan that were acquitted this year of plotting to kill police officers and planting bombs at their funerals, had an arsenal of weapons at their disposal that was larger than all 230 plus Muslim plotters and attackers charged in the U.S. since 9/11 combined. The reward the government gave Johnson and his team was retracting their report and dismantling the team that created it. For decades, the U.S. government has poured money into programs to fight what it calls “violent extremists” and “terrorism.” But those are terms which it doesn’t even apply consistently. Here’s President Trump talking about a mass shooting a white man committed that killed 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November 2017. Trump: I think that mental health is your problem here. This was a very – based on preliminary reports – very deranged individual with a lot of problems over a long period of time. And here he is talking about allegedly, religiously-motivated violence. Trump: We’re also taking strong measures to protect our nation from radical Islamic terrorism. (applause) Most of the governmental programs have focused almost entirely on Muslims, not only stigmatizing that group, but also paying very little attention to what the statistics show is the actual threat. White far-right violence, which often doesn’t earn the label of “terrorism” or “extremism,” hasn’t been the government’s priority. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a look at how the nation spends its money. We don’t really know how much the country has spent on its so-called “Global War on Terror” because the U.S. doesn’t have an accurate accounting of the funds. But one report estimates that from 2002 to 2017, the U.S. government spent $2.8 trillion on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Even as funding declined in 2017 from previous levels, the government still spent $175 billion that year. While the nation was shelling out all that money on what it says was countering foreign threats to America, the rate of right-wing domestic attacks increased nearly sixfold from the 2000s to the 2010s. What did you recommend in your testimony that the government should do? Johnson: I recommended that they look at domestic terrorism definition that’s codified in our laws because right now it’s a, it doesn’t really fit the definition of what domestic terrorism is. So that leads to confusion. I also recommended that we need to have federal dollars devoted to training state and local law enforcement on these types of threats. But to this day, really nothing that I recommended has been implemented. And there’s something else that’s happened since Johnson has given his congressional testimony that’s fueled the rise of far-right hate. Downard: If I was still in the movement, I would be doing what everybody else doing it too. I’d be voting for Trump because he’s saying all the right stuff. Jason Downard is a former neo-Nazi who became involved with the group when he was convicted for his role in a 2009 drive-by shooting. Now that you have somebody like Donald Trump, it’s about what he’s saying, and he’s the president of the United States of America. So, you get these neo-Nazis like, ‘Oooh … we have this president who’s pretty much given us the OK to do whatever the hell we want.’ He’s not the only one who thinks President Trump bears some responsibility for the current wave of far-right fanaticism. He sort of activated them in a way that they hadn’t been before. And this is sort of the tragedy of the Trump era. Critics have skewered Trump for failing to respond clearly and firmly to far-right violence. Here’s what he said after that deadly attack in Charlottesville. Trump: I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides, I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either! He’s also identified as a nationalist, which some see as a wink and a nod to those who call themselves white nationalists. So, anti-racist critics find it difficult to believe Trump’s being sincere when he says … Trump: We will reject bigotry and hatred and oppression. Instead of putting the government’s focus on the right’s growing extremism, Trump’s then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions made it a mission to crack down on so-called Black identity extremists. Beirich: This business with Black identity extremists is a classic example of where the federal government under Trump is focusing on something that doesn’t exist. And the report that was leaked that talked about this issue and talked about how there’s a rising threat from Black identity extremists basically has no factual backing. The FBI even did a 12-page report on so-called “Black identity extremist” groups it says were targeting law enforcement. Here’s what they didn’t do a report on … Rep. Bass: “Has the FBI done a report on white identity extremists that are likely motivated to target law enforcement officers. Is there such a report?”
Sessions: “I’m not aware of that.” Meanwhile, far-right groups like the sovereign citizens, actually have targeted law enforcement. Johnson: They have a significant threat to law enforcement, especially during traffic stops and other unplanned encounters because a lot of these groups look at law enforcement as kind of being the foot soldiers of a tyrannical government. They view a law enforcement as kind of like the government intrusion on their lives. This administration’s pursuit of so-called “Black identity extremism” has drawn comparisons to J. Edgar Hoover’s infamous COINTELPRO. It was a covert action program that relied on infiltration, dirty tricks, and even violence to neutralize dissidents like Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panthers. Trump’s response to far-right extremism is set against this historically-blemished backdrop. Beririch: What is the FBI pursuing in terms of domestic terrorism? Nobody knows. Like, we don’t know. Are there a thousand open cases on this topic? We have no information. So it’s really hard to say the government should be doing ‘x’ if we don’t even know what the government’s been doing. And then there’s the fact the Trump administration nixed a grant to fund a group fighting far-right violence. In the waning days of his presidency, Barack Obama awarded $10 million to 31 groups countering violent extremism. Only one of those organizations was focused on far-right extremism, Life After Hate. Then Donald Trump took office. His administration re-evaluated all the grants. He ended up giving out only 12 and didn’t dole out the $400,000 grant previously earmarked for Life After Hate. The distorted narrative of far-right extremism has deep roots within the birth of this nation. Beirich: Well, the country was founded on the idea of racial supremacy. One thing that’s interesting is a lot of the white supremacists who are active in the United States today, really what they ask for when they want a white homeland, they’re hearkening back to a period that was real, right? Where white men made all the decisions and you know, pretty much made life horrible for the rest of the populations in the United States. But if we’re really looking to understand the growth and effect of far-right extremism in our society today, we’ve got to take a look at our past. And we don’t have to travel too far back.
Going back to the decade of Doc Martens and dial up is far enough. Water Resources Board meeting: … elements that I have to receive information regarding. (sound of explosion) Reporter: Holy cow! About a third of the building has been blown away. (sirens) Dennis Purifoy: Everything went totally dark and I was knocked out of my chair. That seemed to all happen at once. Right-wing hatred is the cause of the deadliest act of domestic political violence in U.S. history. And the face of the attack wasn’t the one Americans initially searched for. Timothy McVeigh: Well, am I pure evil? Am I the face of terror sitting here in front of you? So what happens when far-right violence meets an unprepared government? The federal government of the United States must take full responsibility for Oklahoma City. Hey, fam. Thanks so much for watching. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. And be sure to stay tuned next week when we release part two of our series. We’re headed to Oklahoma City. I hope to see you there.