Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday that white supremacists are currently the “most dangerous and most lethal” domestic terror group in the United States, an assessment that falls in line with recent reports on the threat that far-right extremists present.
During the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garland braced questions on multiple topics, as Republicans on the panel seized the opportunity to elevate right-wing criticism of the DOJ. Questions were focused on, among other things, the Justice Department’s investigation(s) into former president Donald Trump, the rising fentanyl crisis, Fox News’ grievances about the U.S.-Mexico border, and attacks on pregnancy centers and abortion clinics.
After Garland was accused by Republicans of “selective prosecution on abortion issues,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) stepped in to defend the AG, arguing that anti-abortion extremists have been responsible for “11 murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 194 arsons, and thousands of other criminal incidents” since 1977. She then asked Garland whether the DOJ’s prosecutorial focus should be on “the most violent acts.”
To this, the attorney general agreed, noting that the Justice Department prosecutes violent acts “without respect to ideology.”
The Hawaii Democrat then presented two recent reports on domestic terrorism. The first, released on Nov. 16 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, stated that far-right extremism has become an active threat to national security.
“This increase in domestic terror attacks has been predominantly perpetrated by white supremacist and anti-government extremist individuals and groups,” the report states.
The second, released by the Department of Homeland Security about two weeks later, said that the U.S. “remains in a heightened threat environment,” and lists churches, the LGBTQ community, schools, and racial and religious minorities as possible targets for extremist violence.
Garland agreed with these assessments. “…[R]acially-motivated violent extremists as a group are the most dangerous of the domestic violent extremist groups,” he told the senator, “and within that the white supremacists are the most dangerous and most lethal.”
This falls in line with another recent report put out by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, which found that right-wing extremists committed every ideologically-driven mass killing in the U.S. throughout 2022.
To combat this, the attorney general said that the DOJ has allocated a “significant” amount of resources to the threat. The national security division has created a domestic extremist unit to “further track and try to interdict these actions,” and the FBI is likewise meeting the issue with “enormous seriousness of purpose.”
“We are going to do everything we can to deter and prosecute,” he said.