Senate Dems Tie Trump’s Election Lies To Extremist Violence

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (L) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (R) testify during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee at Hart Senate Office Bui... WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (L) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (R) testify during a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee at Hart Senate Office Building on May 12, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing on “Domestic Violent Extremism in America.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Senate Democrats on Wednesday sought answers from the Biden administration on whether former President Donald Trump posed a national security threat to the country by continuing to spew lies about the 2020 election. 

In response, two top law enforcement officials in the administration — Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — didn’t go after Trump by name, but rather told the Senate Appropriations Committee more generally that the sort of lies he’s told could propel further violence.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) made the most direct attempt of the entire committee hearing Wednesday to get the administration on the record. 

He read from a March report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which noted that developments including the Capitol breach “will almost certainly spur some [domestic violent extremists] to try to engage in violence this year.” 

Both Garland and Mayorkas said they agreed with that report. But when Van Hollen went farther — quoting Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who said Tuesday that Trump’s lying about the election “risks inciting further violence” — the administration officials weren’t willing to single out Trump specifically.

“False narratives create a lack of confidence in our democratic institutions, and sometimes worse,” Mayorkas said simply.

It’s not unreasonable that Garland and Mayorkas would hesitate to name Trump: Both officials are dealing with the fallout of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, and any comment about the former President could open them up to criticism that political bias is influencing their decisions.

Garland, for example, declined to discuss the dozens of Capitol riot defendants who’ve explicitly cited Trump’s influence on their actions.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate thing for me, as supervising those prosecutions, to make any comments outside of the court record,” he said. 

But, without naming Trump, the attorney general was willing to speak in general about factors that have contributed to violent extremism. 

“It is right, as the intelligence community has reported, that particularly those who end up committing acts of domestic violence get ideas from the internet, and from statements, where there are false narrative and false statements, those are the kinds of things that can, depending upon the person in the end who acts out, lead to violence,” Garland said. 

Van Hollen’s questions followed a few minutes after those of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who pressed Mayorkas on whether public officials’ statements about the 2020 election being stolen contributed to the threat of violence. 

“The spread of false narratives are used to fuel extremist ideologies, and we are focused on the connection between extremist ideologies and the threat or intention to commit acts of violence,”  Mayorkas said, adding later: “False narratives attributed to public officials gain traction in social media.” 

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest News
Comments
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriter:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: