One year after the Capitol insurrection, the DOJ is building a new unit focused on domestic terrorism.
Justice Department National Security Division Chief Matt Olsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating more than twice as many domestic violent extremist cases as it was two years ago.
“We have seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremist anti-government and anti-authority ideologies,” Olsen said.
Olsen added that the unit regards domestic violent extremists as those who “seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic social or political goals,” and that federal prosecutors in the unit would help coordinate investigations and prosecutions.
The Biden administration has grappled with right-wing domestic extremism since its inauguration. It spent the first few months developing a national strategy which, when released in June, called for more spending at DOJ and FBI for analysts and prosecutors to focus on extremism.
It’s also been met with criticism about potential encroachment on civil liberties, coming from a chorus of people with concerns real and feigned. Far-right commentators have, for example, claimed that those charged in relation to breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6 are victims of politically motivated prosecutions.
At Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, meant to cover domestic terrorist threats, panel chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) played video of the insurrection, saying that it both showed how heightened the threat was while also demonstrating that, at best, the Republican Party looks the other way.
“They are normalizing the use of violence to achieve political goals,” he said.