FBI: Antifa Ideology, Not Organization 09/18 06:10
WASHINGTON (AP) -- FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers Thursday that
antifa is an ideology, not an organization, delivering testimony that puts him
at odds with President Donald Trump, who has said he would designate it a
Hours after the hearing, Trump took to Twitter to chastise his FBI director
for his statements on antifa and on Russian election interference, two themes
that dominated a congressional hearing on threats to the American homeland.
Referring to antifa, the president wrote: "And I look at them as a bunch of
well funded ANARCHISTS & THUGS who are protected because the Comey/Mueller
inspired FBI is simply unable, or unwilling, to find their funding source, and
allows them to get away with "murder". LAW & ORDER!"
The Twitter barbs thrust Wray again into a spotlight that he has spent three
years trying to avoid after his predecessor, James Comey, became entangled in
politics before being ultimately fired. Though Wray said as recently as
Thursday that the FBI made unacceptable mistakes during its investigation into
ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Trump nonetheless has
intermittently lashed out at Wray over the pace of fixing those problems and
continues to regard his intelligence community with suspicion because of the
Wray did not dispute in his testimony Thursday that antifa activists were a
serious concern, saying that antifa was a "real thing" and that the FBI had
undertaken "any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would
describe as violent anarchist extremists," including into individuals who
identify with antifa.
But, he said, "It's not a group or an organization. It's a movement or an
That characterization contradicts the depiction from Trump, who in June
singled out antifa --- short for "anti-fascists" and an umbrella term for
far-left-leaning militant groups --- as responsible for the violence that
followed George Floyd's death. Trump tweeted that the U.S. would be designating
antifa as a terrorist organization, even though such designations are
historically reserved for foreign groups and antifa lacks the hierarchical
structure of formal organizations.
The hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee --- established
after the Sept. 11 attacks to confront the threat of international terrorism
--- focused almost entirely on domestic matters, including violence by white
supremacists as well as anti-government extremists. The topics underscored the
shift of attention by law enforcement at a time of intense divisions and
polarization inside the country.
But one area where foreign threats were addressed was in the presidential
election and Russia's attempts to interfere in the campaign.
Wray sought to make clear the scope of the threats the country faces while
resisting lawmakers' attempts to steer him into politically charged statements.
When asked whether extremists on the left or the right posed the bigger threat,
he pivoted instead to an answer about how solo actors, or so-called "lone
wolves," with easy access to weapons were a primary concern.
"We don't really think of threats in terms of left, right, at the FBI. We're
focused on the violence, not the ideology," he said later.
The FBI director said racially motivated violent extremists, such as white
supremacists, have been responsible for the most lethal attacks in the U.S. in
recent years. But this year the most lethal violence has come from
anti-government activists, such as anarchists and militia-types, Wray said.
Wray also affirmed the intelligence community's assessment of Russian
interference in the November election, which he said was taking the form of
foreign influence campaigns aimed at sowing discord and swaying public opinion
as well as efforts to denigrate Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
He said that the U.S. had not yet seen targeting of election infrastructure
like in 2016, but efforts to sow doubt about the election's integrity are a
serious concern, he said.
"What concerns me the most is the steady drumbeat of misinformation and sort
of amplification of smaller cyber intrusions," Wray said. "I worry that they
will contribute over time to a lack of confidence of American voters and
citizens in the validity of their vote."
"I think that would be a perception," Wray added, "not a reality. I think
Americans can and should have confidence in our election system and certainly
in our democracy. But I worry that people will take on a feeling of futility
because of all of the noise and confusion that's generated."
Trump has resisted the idea of Russian interference aimed at benefiting his
campaign and has been eager, along with other administration officials, to talk
about intelligence officials' assessment that China prefers that Trump lose to
He responded on that front Thursday evening, tweeting: "But Chris, you don't
see any activity from China, even though it is a FAR greater threat than
Russia, Russia, Russia. They will both, plus others, be able to interfere in
our 2020 Election with our totally vulnerable Unsolicited (Counterfeit?) Ballot
Scam. Check it out!"
Though intelligence officials said in a statement last month that China
prefers that Trump lose, they appeared to stop short of accusing Beijing of
directly interfering in the election in hopes of swaying the outcome.