Heads Up, Trump: Democrats Say They’ll Make Hate Crimes a Top Priority in 2019

Members of MoveOn.org Political Action stand outside the studios of ‘Good Morning America’ to broadcast messages of love, dignity, and equality and stand up against the hate, racism, and incitement of violence that the group says has become a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, March 16, 2016, in New York City.
Photo: Thos Robinson (Getty Images for MoveOn.org Political Action)

Earlier this month, an FBI report found that the number of reported hate crimes increased substantially under President Donald Trump’s tenure in office. Now, following the Democrats taking power back in the House of Representatives, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is warning the Trump administration that the rise in hate crimes—and the administration’s surveillance of minority activist groups—will be a top investigative priority come January.


In a letter penned by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Democrats on the Judiciary Committee made clear that they plan to “examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups.”

“As you are no doubt aware, Members of the House Judiciary Committee have written repeatedly to the Trump Administration and [Current House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte] on matters related to domestic terrorism, countering violent extremism, domestic surveillance, and the unfair profiling of racial, religious, and ethnic minority groups. To date, we have received little or no substantive response to any of these communications,” Nadler wrote, before referring back to the FBI’s most recent data and noting the role Trump has played in escalating racial tensions across the country.


The same report also found that black people bear a disproportionate brunt as the target of hate crimes. Out of more than 5,000 hate crime victims in 2017, 48.6 percent were targeted because they were black—far greater than any other racial group (the second highest group, apparently, was white people, with 17.1 percent).

“These concerning trends in law enforcement play out against the backdrop of President Trump’s rhetoric. He calls himself a nationalist. He falsely claims that ‘foreigners’ are the primary sources of domestic terror. He famously claimed that there were ‘some very fine people on both sides’ of the riot in Charlottesville—where a neo-Nazi demonstration ended in the death of one counter-protestor and two officers of the Virginia state police,” Nadler wrote in the letter, which was addressed to acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, FBI Director Chris Wray and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (who apparently still has a job).


“We need to work together to study the disturbingly increasing number of hate crimes, the growing threat of far right and right-wing extremism, and the disparate treatment of minority communities in terrorism investigations,” Nadler added.

“The horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the murder of an African-American couple in a Kentucky grocery store and Indian engineers in a Kansas bar, and the package bombs sent to Trump opposition figures are only the most recent reminders of the ever-present threat of extremism in our country,” said Nadler, referring to incidents that all happened within the last month.


The letter follows up with specific asks of Whitaker, Wray and Nielsen, including a list of “any groups that have been designated as “BIE,” as well as any documents supporting such designation.” Here, BIE refers to “Black Identity Extremists,” a term the FBI made up in a 2017 report identifying black people angry with police-involved killings as a rising domestic threat—despite an apparent lack of evidence to support its claim.


Despite the FBI naming it and writing a report on it, though, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions (oh dearest Beauregard) had trouble giving an example of one such black extremist group when grilled by Democratic Rep. Karen Bass on the topic last year.

Of course, the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee aren’t the only ones telling the Trump administration to gather itself and gird its collective loins once the new legislative session begins in 2019. Maxine Waters—beloved auntie and scalper of Trump’s withered edges—as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, says one of her top priorities for 2019 will be investigating Trump’s finances.


Now those are some New Year’s resolutions we can get behind.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?