Republicans make the FBI look like the good guys
Instigator turned investigator Sen. Josh Hawley, left, questions FBI Director Chris Wray at a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Wray pinpointed right-wing white supremacist terrorists, like those who targeted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, as a grave threat. | AP photos

Not too many years ago, it would have been unthinkable that at a congressional hearing on right-wing terror the FBI would be defending left and progressive demonstrators, saying that it was not them but rather white supremacists that were the real threat to security in the U.S.

At the obvious displeasure of Republican senators Tuesday, FBI Director Chris Wray defined the January insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as an act of “domestic terrorism” and warned of a “rapidly growing threat” of homegrown right-wing violent extremism that law enforcement is attempting to deal with through thousands of investigations.

He firmly rejected false claims put forward by some Republicans in both the House and Senate that anti-Trump groups had organized the deadly uprising and the storming of the Capitol building as Congress was trying to certify results of the presidential election.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for example, has been describing the Trumpite insurrection Jan.6 as essentially a “picnic,” which he falsely claimed was turned into a riot by antifa infiltrators.

Wray’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, his first before Congress since the insurrection, was the latest in a series of hearings centered on the Jan. 6 attempt to overturn the election.

Democratic lawmakers pressed Wray not only about possible intelligence and communication failures ahead of the insurrection but also about the role of white supremacists, militias, and other extremists that the FBI says it is prioritizing with the “same urgency” as the “menace of international terrorism organizations.”

“Jan. 6 was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon,” Wray told the committee. “At the FBI, we’ve been sounding the alarm on it for a number of years now.”

Though it has always kept tabs on the right, the FBI has historically concentrated the bulk of its investigations against so-called international terrorists and left-wing and civil rights organizations on the domestic front. It is a new development for the FBI to announce that it is devoting major resources to deal with violence perpetrated by right-wing white Americans.

President Biden has directed his national intelligence director to work with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to gauge the threat from white supremacists.

Wray said the number of domestic terrorism investigations has grown from 1,000 when he became FBI director in 2017 to 2,000 now. The number of arrests of white supremacists has tripled, he said.

Wray made it clear that he considered the Trumpite insurrection on Jan. 6 a white supremacist riot and domestic terrorism.

Five people died that day, including a Capitol Police officer and a woman who was shot as she climbed through a broken window into the House chamber with representatives still inside.

Wray’s declarations about the threat coming from white supremacists were the most significant things said at the hearings Tuesday because you have the director of the FBI admitting that there is a white supremacist conspiracy underway in the nation that is not only capable of mounting deadly attacks but has actually done so and can again.

The Justice Department probe into the insurrection has already produced hundreds of charges, including against members of militia groups and far-right organizations. It was more than just a spontaneous insurrection. The crowd in Washington that day included organized groups, Wray said, that aimed to attack police and disrupt the proceedings of Congress.

“Some of those people clearly came to Washington, we now know, with the plans and intentions to engage in the worst kind of violence we would consider domestic terrorism,” Wray said.

Asked whether there was evidence that the attack was planned or carried out by antifa or by Trump opponents posing as his loyalists, Wray said that there was none.

“The amount of angry, hateful, unspeakable, combative, violent even, rhetoric on social media exceeds what anybody in their worst imagination (thinks) is out there,” Wray said.

GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who literally led the charge against the Capitol that day, tried to pose as an honest broker in the investigation. The instigator was investigating the instigators. After rallying the MAGA crowd on Jan. 6, he asked Wray yesterday to explain how the riot happened!

It’s as if the Gambino family, back in the day, would have asked the FBI about what it had learned from its wiretaps.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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