Jeh Johnson: Domestic Terrorism Increasing Because Political ‘Dialogue Is Deviating Downward’

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson commented on Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist Christopher Paul Hasson, who was arrested by the FBI as a suspected domestic terrorist.

While Johnson did not mention President Donald Trump by name, he said the problem of our “dialogue” and “civility” deviating downward started at the top.

Host Chuck Todd asked, “There was a troubling New York Times Magazine story about this issue of white nationalism. In 2017, there were 65 incidents. Roughly 60 percent were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-semi anti-Semitic thoughts. There seems to be a threat of white nationalism, and law enforcement doesn’t know how to tackle it. Is that because of the politics?”

Johnson said, “I hope not. Very definitely, there is a rise in the levels of extremist violent behavior directed not just at people based on race. I think what is new is directed at people perceived to occupy a political ideology list. For example, this lieutenant’s personal belongings included the list, much like the pipe bomber that was arrested. And that is new. And so without policing speech, without policing thought in a free and open democratic society, traditional law enforcement and in efforts of building bridges in communities needs to continue. This is truly a difficult nut to crack. And the levels of hatred and violence we see are going up. The ADL points out anti-Semitism is going up now. It has to start at the top. Leaders lead, and people really do listen to their leaders. And the level of dialogue is deviating downward, the civility of our dialogue is deviating downward such that individuals like this Coast Guard lieutenant feel emboldened and perhaps even initialed to take matters into his own hands and carry out acts of violence.”

Todd asked, “Because the president doesn’t condemn this, because the president doesn’t want to take the lead on this, there is not much government can do until he does?”

Johnson said, “I think it’s incumbent on leadership across the spectrum to lower the levels of our — or to raise the levels of our civil discourse, discourage violence, call it out wherever it might exist on the political spectrum.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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