WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said on Tuesday if elected to the White House she would use “every tool” at her disposal to combat white nationalist violence, beginning with directing the FBI and Justice Department to put a renewed focus on domestic terrorism.
Warren, one of 18 Democrats vying for the party’s nomination to take on President Donald Trump in November 2020, said U.S. law enforcement agencies have prioritized investigating international terrorism since the September 2001 attacks, even as the FBI logged more than 7,000 hate crimes in 2018.
The Massachusetts senator said recent racially motivated attacks at a South Carolina church, a white supremacist rally in Virginia, a Pennsylvania synagogue and a Walmart in Texas, should have been prevented.
“They are incompatible with our values and have no place in American life,” Warren wrote on the website Medium.
Warren said the Trump administration had “chosen to ignore the threat posed by white nationalists and affiliated violent extremists” while the president “openly stoked these fires.”
She cited Trump immigration adviser Stephen Miller, who as a Senate aide promoted anti-immigrant views and had ties to white nationalist websites, according to a cache of his emails obtained recently by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a civil rights group.
The White House has defended Miller, telling the New York Times that SPLC “libels, slanders and defames conservatives.”
Warren said the nearly 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies in the United States should adopt standard metrics to track hate crimes and white nationalist groups. Federal prosecutors should handle such cases since localities often lack the training or resources and prosecutions should be standardized, she said.
Warren said she would direct the National Counterterrorism Center to work with international partners to investigate white supremacist violence, and when white nationalist groups are deemed a threat elsewhere she will direct the State Department to add them to its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Warren said her plan to expand background checks would help prevent individuals associated with violent or militant groups from purchasing firearms and changes in policing tactics could rebuild trust in law enforcement within communities targeted by racially motivated attacks.
U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are among Warren’s White House rivals who have put out their own plans for dealing what they respectively called domestic terrorism and white supremacist violence.
Reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Tom Brown