Joe Biden administration to assess 'all violence' including Portland and Capitol riots to tackle domestic extremism

The White House press secretary said this after a Fox journalist asked whether the new DNI would treat the recent riots in Portland just like those in Capitol on Jan 6

                            Joe Biden administration to assess 'all violence' including Portland and Capitol riots to tackle domestic extremism
President Joe Biden (Getty Images)

Jen Psaki, who took over as the Joe Biden administration’s White House press secretary this month, said on Tuesday, January 26, that “all violence” will be reviewed as part of the new administration’s efforts to combat domestic violent extremism of all political color. She said this in the wake of the riot at Capitol Hill on January 6 and the recent unrest in places like Portland, Denver and Seattle. 

Speaking at a press briefing, Psaki confirmed that national security officials will assess all violence that is going on throughout the country through the same lens -- whether conducted by the right-wing or left-wing extremists. “All violence happening around the country will be reviewed by the national security team,” Psaki, who had served as former White House communications director in the Barack Obama administration between 2015 and 2017, said.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (Getty Images)

Psaki’s remarks came after Fox News journalist Peter Doocy asked whether the office of Avril Haines, the new Director of National Intelligence (DNI), was categorizing people found involved in riots in Portland as “domestic violent extremists” just like those in the Capitol. Antifa rioters attacked the headquarters of Portland Democratic Party headquarters, burned American flags in Denver and smashed storefronts in Seattle a day after Biden took oath as the 46th president of the US. Signs reading ‘We don’t want Biden, we want revenge!’ were also seen among the protests in Portland. 

Two weeks before that, angry supporters of former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol to protest the victory of Biden and five people died in the clashes that also saw Trump getting impeached in the House, for the second time. It was feared that right-wing extremist groups could target Biden’s inauguration in the wake of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol though nothing untoward happened. 

Supporters of former pesidenr Donald Trump clash with police and security forces as people try to storm the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

On Friday, January 22, Psaki announced that President Biden had asked law enforcement and intelligence officials to assess the threat of domestic violent extremism in the country. The same day, the launch of a ‘comprehensive threat assessment’ coordinated by the Office of the DNI, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the homeland security department was announced. 

The White House that the launch of a 'comprehensive threat assessment' was coordinated by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The White House said the review will be used as a foundation to develop a policy on the same. The National Security Council will also conduct its own policy review to see how information about the matter can be better shared across the government. 

'Domestic violent extremism growing national security threat'

While announcing the review, Psaki said: “The January 6 assault on the Capitol and the tragic deaths and destruction that occurred underscored what we all know: The rise of domestic violent extremism is a serious and growing national security threat.” She also told the reporters that “more needs to be done” -- a thought seconded by Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee who said it was “critical” that the new administration tackled extremism on home soil. 

“In particular, far-right, white supremacist extremism, nurtured on online platforms, has become one of the most dangerous threats to our nation,” he said.

Retired army general Stanley McChrystal has warned that violent extremism is on the rise in the US in the wake of the January 6 riot. A former commander of US troops in Afghanistan, McChrystal said in an interview with Yahoo News that the US is headed for a domestic insurgency. He compared the ‘Make America Great Again’ riot to the evolution of al-Qaeda saying in both cases, people followed a ‘powerful leader’ who ‘justified their violence’. 

“I did see a similar dynamic in the evolution of al-Qaeda in Iraq, where a whole generation of angry Arab youth with very poor prospects followed a powerful leader who promised to take them back in time to a better place, and he led them to embrace an ideology that justified their violence,” McChrystal told Yahoo News, adding: “This is now happening in America.”