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In the Stimulus Bill, a Policy Revolution in Aid for Children

The $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress advances an idea that Democrats have been nurturing for decades: establishing a guaranteed income for families with children.

Anique Houpe, a single mother in Georgia, is among the parents whom Democrats are seeking to help with a plan to provide most families with a monthly check of up to $300 per child.
Anique Houpe, a single mother in Georgia, is among the parents whom Democrats are seeking to help with a plan to provide most families with a monthly check of up to $300 per child.Credit…

WASHINGTON — A year ago, Anique Houpe, a single mother in suburban Atlanta, was working as a letter carrier, running a side business catering picnics and settling into a rent-to-own home in Stone Mountain, Ga., where she thought her boys would flourish in class and excel on the football field.

Then the pandemic closed the schools, the boys’ grades collapsed with distance learning, and she quit work to stay home in hopes of breaking their fall. Expecting unemployment aid that never came, she lost her utilities, ran short of food and was recovering from an immobilizing bout of Covid when a knock brought marshals with eviction papers.

Depending on when the snapshot is dated, Ms. Houpe might appear as a striving emblem of upward mobility or a mother on the verge of homelessness. But in either guise, she is among the people Democrats seek to help with a mold-breaking plan, on the verge of congressional passage, to provide most parents a monthly check of up to $300 per child.

Obscured by other parts of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which won Senate approval on Saturday, the child benefit has the makings of a policy revolution. Though framed in technocratic terms as an expansion of an existing tax credit, it is essentially a guaranteed income for families with children, akin to children’s allowances that are common in other rich countries.

The plan establishes the benefit for a single year. But if it becomes permanent, as Democrats intend, it will greatly enlarge the safety net for the poor and the middle class at a time when the volatile modern economy often leaves families moving between those groups. More than 93 percent of children — 69 million — would receive benefits under the plan, at a one-year cost of more than $100 billion.

The bill, which is likely to pass the House and be signed by Mr. Biden this week, raises the maximum benefit most families will receive by up to 80 percent per child and extends it to millions of families whose earnings are too low to fully qualify under existing law. Currently, a quarter of children get a partial benefit, and the poorest 10 percent get nothing.

While the current program distributes the money annually, as a tax reduction to families with income tax liability or a check to those too poor to owe income taxes, the new program would send both groups monthly checks to provide a more stable cash flow.

By the standards of previous aid debates, opposition has been surprisingly muted. While the bill has not won any Republican votes, critics have largely focused on other elements of the rescue package. Some conservatives have called the child benefit “welfare” and warned that it would bust budgets and weaken incentives to work or marry. But Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, has proposed a child benefit that is even larger, though it would be financed through other safety net cuts.

While the proposal took center stage in response to the pandemic, supporters have spent decades developing the case for a children’s income guarantee. Their arguments gained traction as science established the long-term consequences of deprivation in children’s early years, and as rising inequality undercut the idea that everyone had a fair shot at a better life.

The economic shock and racial protests of the past year brought new momentum to a plan whose reach, while broad, would especially help Black and Latino families, who are crucial to the Democrats’ coalition.

Mr. Biden’s embrace of the subsidies is a leftward shift for a Democratic Party that made deep cuts in cash aid in the 1990s under the theme of “ending welfare.” As a senator, Mr. Biden supported the 1996 welfare restrictions, and as recently as August his campaign was noncommittal about the child benefit.

The president now promotes projections that the monthly checks — up to $300 for young children and $250 for those over 5 — would cut child poverty by 45 percent, and by more than 50 percent among Black families.

“The moment has found us,” said Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who has proposed a child allowance in 10 consecutive Congresses and describes it as a children’s version of Social Security. “The crystallization of the child tax credit and what it can do to lift children and families out of poverty is extraordinary. We’ve been talking about this for years.”

Ms. Houpe’s home state has been crucial to the advance of the benefit. Democrats are in position to enact it only because they won Georgia’s two Senate seats in runoff elections in January, barely gaining control of the chamber.

Ms. Houpe decided that she needed to stay home to care for her boys during the pandemic and left a job with the Postal Service that paid nearly $18 an hour.
Ms. Houpe decided that she needed to stay home to care for her boys during the pandemic and left a job with the Postal Service that paid nearly $18 an hour.Credit…

While Ms. Houpe, an independent, skipped the presidential election, that promise of cash relief led her to vote Democratic in January. “I just felt like the Democrats would be more likely to do something,” she said.

Her precarious situation is the kind the subsidy seeks to address. Born to a teenage mother, Ms. Houpe, 33, grew up straining to escape hardship. Though she was young when she had a child, she came close to finishing a bachelor’s degree, found work as pharmacy technician and took a job with the post office to lift her wage to nearly $18 an hour. Raising a son on her own, she took in a nephew whom she regards as a second child.

Ms. Houpe seemed on the rise before the pandemic, with the move to a new house. The monthly payment consumed 60 percent of her income, twice what the government deems affordable, but she trimmed the cost by renting out a room and started a side job catering picnics.

During the pandemic, she spent six months waiting for schools to reopen until the boys’ plummeting grades — Trejion is 14 and Micah 11 — persuaded her that she could not leave them alone.

“I had to make a decision,” Ms. Houpe said, “my boys or my job.”

But when her requests for unemployment were denied, the bottom fell out.

While critics fear cash aid weakens work incentives, Ms. Houpe said it might have saved her job by allowing her to hire someone part time to supervise the boys.

“I definitely would have kept my job,” she said.

If she had been receiving the child benefit last year, Ms. Houpe said, she would have used it to hire someone to help watch her boys so she could have kept her job.
If she had been receiving the child benefit last year, Ms. Houpe said, she would have used it to hire someone to help watch her boys so she could have kept her job.Credit…

The campaign for child benefits is at least a half-century old and rests on a twofold idea: Children are expensive, and society shares an interest in seeing them thrive. At least 17 wealthy countries subsidize child-rearing for much of the population, with Canada offering up to $4,800 per child each year. But until recently, a broad allowance seemed unlikely in the United States, where policy was more likely to reflect a faith that opportunity was abundant and a belief that aid sapped initiative.

It was a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who abolished the entitlement to cash aid for poor families with children. The landmark law he signed in 1996 created time limits and work requirements and caused an exodus from the rolls. Spending on the poor continued to grow but targeted low-wage workers, with little protection for those who failed to find or keep jobs.

In a 2018 analysis of federal spending on children, the economists Hilary W. Hoynes and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach found that virtually all the increases since 1990 went to “families with earnings” and those “above the poverty line.”

But rising inequality and the focus on early childhood brought broader subsidies a new look. A landmark study in 2019 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine showed that even short stints in poverty could cause lasting harm, leaving children with less education, lower adult earnings and worse adult health. Though welfare critics said aid caused harm, the panel found that “poverty itself causes negative child outcomes” and that income subsidies “have been shown to improve child well-being.”

Republicans may have unwittingly advanced the push for child benefits in 2017 by doubling the existing child tax credit to $2,000 and giving it to families with incomes of up to $400,000, but not extending the full benefit to those in the bottom third of incomes.

Republicans said that since the credit was meant to reduce income taxes, it naturally favored families who earned enough to have a tax liability. But by prioritizing the affluent, the move amplified calls for a more equitable child policy.

Efforts to increase the benefit and include the needy drew strong support from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and was led in the Senate by the Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a progressive, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, a centrist. A majority of Democrats in both chambers were on board when unemployment surged because of the coronavirus.

“The crisis gave Democrats an opportunity by broadening the demand for government relief,” said Sarah A. Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University.

Welfare critics warn the country is retreating from success. Child poverty reached a new low before the pandemic, and opponents say a child allowance could reverse that trend by reducing incentives to work. About 10 million children are poor by a government definition that varies with family size and local cost of living. (A typical family of four with income below about $28,000 is considered poor.)

“Why are Republicans asleep at the switch?” wrote Mickey Kaus, whose antiwelfare writings influenced the 1990s debate. He has urged Republicans to run ads in conservative states with Democratic senators, attacking them for supporting “a new welfare dole.”

Under Mr. Biden’s plan, a nonworking mother with three young children could receive $10,800 a year, plus food stamps and Medicaid — too little to prosper but enough, critics fear, to erode a commitment to work and marriage. Scott Winship of the conservative American Enterprise Institute wrote that the new benefit creates “a very real risk of encouraging more single parenthood and more no-worker families.”

But a child allowance differs from traditional aid in ways that appeal to some on the right. Libertarians like that it frees parents to use the money as they choose, unlike targeted aid such as food stamps. Proponents of higher birthrates say a child allowance could help arrest a decline in fertility. Social conservatives note that it benefits stay-at-home parents, who are bypassed by work-oriented programs like child care.

And supporters argue that it has fewer work disincentives than traditional aid, which quickly falls as earnings climb. Under the Democrats’ plan, full benefits extend to single parents with incomes of $112,500 and couples with $150,000.

Backlash could grow as the program’s sweep becomes clear. But Samuel Hammond, a proponent of child allowances at the center-right Niskanen Center, said the politics of aid had changed in ways that softened conservative resistance.

A quarter-century ago, debate focused on an urban underclass whose problems seemed to set them apart from a generally prospering society. They were disproportionately Black and Latino and mostly represented by Democrats. Now, insecurity has traveled up the economic ladder to a broader working class with similar problems, like underemployment, marital dissolution and drugs. Often white and rural, many are voters whom Republicans hope to court.

“Republicans can’t count on running a backlash campaign,” Mr. Hammond said. “They crossed the Rubicon in terms of cash payments. People love the stimulus checks.”

The muted opposition to the proposal, he said, showed that “people on the right are curious about the child benefit — not committed, but movable.”

An analysis by Sophie M. Collyer of Columbia University underscored the plan’s broad reach. She found that in Georgia, the child allowance would bring net gains per child of $1,700 for whites, $1,900 for Latinos and $2,100 for Blacks.

As a suburban independent in a state that was long red, Ms. Houpe is among those whose loyalties are up for grabs. She rejected the argument that a child subsidy would promote joblessness and warned that some parents had to work too much. “My son had football games every Saturday morning,” she said, “and I wasn’t there for him as much as I wanted to be.”

If aid posed risks, Ms. Houpe said, so did the lack of any. Out of money last fall, she suffered debilitating depression, and a panic attack grew so severe she pulled her car to the side of road. “My son was freaking out” looking for her asthma inhaler, she said.

Still trying to get unemployment benefits, Ms. Houpe has plans for a baking business called The Munchie Shopp. She has practiced strawberries dipped in white chocolate and honed her red velvet cake. This week, she tried dying one blue but denied making a political statement.

“During an election, people say anything to win,” she said. “Let’s see what they do.”

 

Kelly J. Baker is a writer and scholar of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. She sees frightening similarities between that culture and the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Ku Klux Klan members paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in August 1925 to show their dominance and presence in American life.
Ku Klux Klan members paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in August 1925 to show their dominance and presence in American life.Credit…Bettmann/Getty Images

In the weeks following the attack on the Capitol, many Americans have argued over whether the violence was a singular event or an outcome of deeper forces. Voters, Congress and a former president are clashing over who is to blame.

To Kelly J. Baker, a writer and public scholar of religion and racial hatred, the attack felt familiar, and it made her nervous. Many rioters, a largely white group, were motivated by religious fervor and saw themselves as participants in a kind of holy war. Some brought Confederate flags, others crosses. Some who invoked the name of Jesus were members of far-right groups like the Proud Boys, whose participants have espoused misogynistic and anti-immigrant views. Some were motivated by conspiracy theories and QAnon falsehoods as well as their conservative Christian faith.

In many ways it resembled the culture of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, and the group’s march on Washington in 1925, said Dr. Baker, who previously was a religious studies lecturer at the University of Tennessee. Many Americans associate the K.K.K. with white hoods, burning crosses and anti-Black racism but are less familiar with its white Protestant ambitions and antipathy toward Catholics and Jews. Dr. Baker explores that history in her book “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930,” published by the University Press of Kansas in 2011.

In a conversation with The New York Times that has been edited for length, Dr. Baker reflected on how white Protestant Christianity and nationalism have long been interwoven — even a mainstream movement — and how many white churches today have yet to reckon with white supremacy.

I thought I’d start with a blunt question. Are connections between white Christianity and extremism new?

No. White Christianity and this white supremacist Trump extremism are definitely not a new combination. I’d push back a little bit about the language of extremism to say that some of this stuff has been remarkably mainstream in American history. I just think that what we’re seeing right now is a dramatic form of it.

What did the attack on the Capitol remind you of historically?

It reminds me of some of the actions of the 1920s Klan, where they are marching on Washington in hoods and robes and carrying flags and crosses to show their dominance and presence in American life.

This was the largest order of the Klan in American history, millions of members in all 48 continental states. Usually the estimates are four to six million. Folks were bankers and dentists and lawyers, pastors and politicians. This involved both white men and women. They stood for, explicitly, white supremacy and white Protestantism. Arguably, it is an evangelical movement too. For membership you were supposed to be a white Christian. You had to be supportive of nationalism and patriotism. They actively encouraged members to go to church. Their language was definitely influenced by evangelicalism, the way they talk about Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

There were an estimated four to six million Klan members in 1925, when the group marched in Washington.
There were an estimated four to six million Klan members in 1925, when the group marched in Washington.Credit…Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

At the time, what was going on with white Christians who were not members?

The Klan was kind of a dramatic example of what a lot of other white people would understand: the importance of Christianity, patriotism, that there was tacit agreement about white supremacy.

There are people that are counteracting these white people that are doing this, but white supremacy wasn’t a controversial topic. The Klan was really upfront and honest about using this term. So a lot of other white Christians might have the same beliefs that they did, but the Klan took it up to 11. These are folks who were picking up the hood and robe to say that America needs to be saved, from immigrants, from people of color.

Did this combination start in the 1920s? Where does it start?

Arguably we can talk about how the combination of Christianity and white supremacy goes to the American founding, with early folks like Puritans showing up and claiming they’re the nation upon a hill and that this is now their land and they have dominion over it. It’s not like we can say that the Klan came from the Puritans. But a variety of different movements in different time periods pick up the same ideas and rhetoric and practices.

What are you observing about this current period of extremism and Christianity. How does it compare to the waves before?

As a historian, sometimes you think, “I don’t know if I can take this moment in history and bring it to the present.” But you can definitely find that if you look at a Klan newspaper from the 1920s that there was similar language about God and there’s similar language about the threat to the nation, from immigrants or Catholics or Jews. It just looked so familiar.

Some of the differences are kind of interesting. Klansmen went around with hoods and robes, so they are not sharing their identity. One of the interesting things to me about this movement now is the willingness of people to be so public about their beliefs. I think they’ve been emboldened by Trump’s behavior.

That feels a little different to me from the more polished version that the 1920s Klan wanted to have, where they’re very careful about their rhetoric, and very thoughtful about how they presented their Christianity, and were very much into having a smooth moving P.R. machine to make them look respectable. I have a hard time imagining a Klan riot on the Capitol.

The Klan was not as apocalyptic as some of the current folks are, you know, where they are thinking about the world ending.

What do you make of the conservative Christians who condemn the violence at the Capitol?

It is interesting that there are conservative Christians who support Trump but say the violence is a step too far. I think that is important. But I have this kind of inkling that that means they’re OK with everything else. Like, the violence is a step too far, but is the white supremacy? Is the anti-immigrant impulse? Are they also convinced that something happened with the election and Trump should have remained president?

Part of the downfall of the 1920s Klan is that there were Klan leaders that pushed too far. There were a couple of cases involving Klansmen that involved a whole bunch of violence. So people started defecting because they don’t want to be associated. But I think the important thing about that is that Klansmen and Klanswomen were on board with exclusion. They’re on board with anti-immigrant sentiment. They are totally there for white supremacy. It’s just that when that violence reached a particular moment, they felt like they had to step back. And that seems similar to me here.

Supporters of President Donald J. Trump prayed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some of the rioters that day were motivated by religious fervor.
Supporters of President Donald J. Trump prayed outside the Capitol on Jan. 6. Some of the rioters that day were motivated by religious fervor.Credit…Win McNamee/Getty Images

We have also seen a lot of anti-Semitism among the Trump extremists. How does that fit historically with white Christians?

In 1890, there’s a push against immigrants, particularly Catholic and Jewish immigrants. We definitely had it with the 1920s Klan, that the two groups it primarily was against were Catholics and Jews, with again a deep concern that somehow the character of the nation would be changed if it wasn’t so dominated by white Christians, Protestant Christians. They were nervous about the enfranchisement of Black people as well, but so much of their effort was directed toward other religious groups.

The extremism that we are seeing, is it similar to the rise of Islamic extremism? We made such a distinction between Islam and Islamic extremism. Does that apply to Christianity in the United States?

I don’t think we should flatten and say Christianity equals Christian extremism in the same way that we shouldn’t say Islam solely is the same as Islamic fundamentalism. But I do think we have to figure out, what is it about these traditions — and the people that are part of these traditions and have practices and beliefs — that makes extremism a possibility.

To what extent is this moment a pivot point? Are we at the end of something, are we at the beginning of something?

Whether this is a beginning or ending, I think one of the things that we can’t take our eyes off of is this question of, How we could get here? I think there’s still a lot of ‘I don’t know how this happened’ that’s occurring around this moment. It’s a mistake to assume that this is some sort of anomaly that we can just move past. It’s a dangerous mistake because I think we need to be very thoughtful about the roles of the politicians in leading to these sorts of things, the role of social media.

I am not super optimistic that we are at the end of this kind of violence. I’m not. And I think part of that comes from researching white supremacist movements for over 15 years.

I’m wondering the extent to which white, conservative American Christianity is changing. Are there any historical lessons of hope?

There still has to be a reckoning within white Christian churches about white supremacy. There need to be very careful conversations about this, not as, “Individuals are prejudiced,” but about, “This is the system that we all inhabit.”

There were white Christian leaders in the 1920s who were anti-Klan. We see this happening within some white churches, who have very much paid attention to the movement for Black lives and have understood that they have a job in this. There are glimmers of hope.

But I think that there still has to be a reckoning with what churches and leaders and organizations are involved in something like the events on Jan. 6. And that’s going to require a lot of soul-searching and interrogation.

Elizabeth Dias covers faith and politics from Washington. She previously covered a similar beat for Time magazine. @elizabethjdias

If Marjorie Taylor Greene Isn’t Beyond the Pale, Who Is?

There’s still time for Republican leaders to reject Q.

How far is too far? This is the question Republican leaders are being forced to grapple with as the public outcry grows over one of their newest House members, Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The Georgia freshman is best known for endorsing QAnon, the right-wing movement convinced of the fiction that Donald Trump is a messiah sent to defeat a cabal of Satan-worshiping, child-abusing, deep-state villains. But this is just one of the bizarre lies she has peddled. Her greatest hits include promoting the conspiracy theory that blames the 2018 Camp Fire wildfire in California on a space laser controlled by a prominent Jewish banking familysuggesting the Obama administration used its MS-13 “henchmen” to murder a Democratic National Committee staff member and floating the idea that the Clintons had John F. Kennedy Jr. killed. She has dabbled in 9/11 Trutherism and contended that various school shootings were false-flag operations. She also traffics in racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim talk.

Ms. Greene does not draw the line at promoting bigotry and disinformation. Videos and social media posts from before she ran for Congress show her endorsing violence against those she sees as enemy combatants in an ongoing civil war. She has expressed support of social media calls to execute high-profile Democrats, including the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and F.B.I. agents. When asked about such activities, Ms. Greene has dodged, asserting that her pages have been run by “teams” of people over the years, some promoting views with which she does not agree. Many of the posts in question have since been scrubbed.

Ms. Greene’s behavior since her election has been troubling as well. She has peddled false claims that the presidential election was stolen and rife with fraud. She was among the 139 House Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the Electoral College on Jan. 6, even after a pro-Trump mob sacked the Capitol. On Jan. 17, Twitter briefly suspended her account for repeatedly violating its “civic integrity policy.”

 

Federal law enforcement shifted resources last year in response to Donald Trump’s insistence that the radical left endangered the country. Meanwhile, right-wing extremism was building ominously.

The outrage that President Donald J. Trump spent months stoking would later culminate in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by loyalist supporters and right-wing extremists.

WASHINGTON — As racial justice protests erupted nationwide last year, President Donald J. Trump, struggling to find a winning campaign theme, hit on a message that he stressed over and over: The real domestic threat to the United States emanated from the radical left, even though law enforcement authorities had long since concluded it came from the far right.

It was a message that was quickly embraced and amplified by his attorney general and his top homeland security officials, who translated it into a shift in criminal justice and national security priorities even as Mr. Trump was beginning to openly stoke the outrage that months later would culminate in the storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists.

Mr. Trump’s efforts to focus his administration on the antifa movement and leftist groups did not stop the Justice Department and the F.B.I. from pursuing cases of right-wing extremism. They broke up a kidnapping plot, for example, targeting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat.

But the effect of his direction was nonetheless substantial, according to interviews with current and former officials, diverting key portions of the federal law enforcement and domestic security agencies at a time when the threat from the far right was building ominously.

  • In late spring and early summer, as the racial justice demonstrations intensified, Justice Department officials began shifting federal prosecutors and F.B.I. agents from investigations into violent white supremacists to focus on cases involving rioters or anarchists, including those who might be associated with the antifa movement. One Justice Department prosecutor was sufficiently concerned about an excessive focus on antifa that the official went to the department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, telling his office that politics might have played a part.

  • Federal prosecutors and agents felt pressure to uncover a left-wing extremist criminal conspiracy that never materialized, according to two people who worked on Justice Department efforts to counter domestic terrorism. They were told to do so even though the F.B.I., in particular, had increasingly expressed concern about the threat from white supremacists, long the top domestic terrorism threat, and well-organized far-right extremist groups that had allied themselves with the president.

  • White House and Justice Department officials stifled internal efforts to publicly promote concerns about the far-right threat, with aides to Mr. Trump seeking to suppress the phrase “domestic terrorism” in internal discussions, according to a former official at the Department of Homeland Security.

  • Requests for funding to bolster the number of analysts who search social media posts for warnings of potential violent extremism were denied by top homeland security officials, limiting the department’s ability to spot developing threats like the post-Election Day anger among far-right groups over Mr. Trump’s loss.

The scale and intensity of the threat developing on the right became stunningly clear on Jan. 6, when news broadcasts and social media were flooded with images of far-right militias, followers of the QAnon conspiracy movement and white supremacists storming the Capitol.

Militias and other dangerous elements of the far right saw “an ally in the White House,” said Mary McCord, a former Justice Department official who teaches at Georgetown University and focuses on domestic terrorism. “That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw” at the Capitol.

Militias and other dangerous elements of the far right saw “an ally in the White House,” said Mary McCord, a former Justice Department official who teaches at Georgetown University and focuses on domestic terrorism. “That has, I think, allowed them to grow and recruit and try to mainstream their opinions, which is why I think you end up seeing what we saw” at the Capitol.

Far-right and far-left groups clashing in Portland, Ore., in August. Dozens of F.B.I. employees and senior managers were sent on temporary assignments there, according to current and former law enforcement officials.

Mr. Trump’s focus on what he portrayed as a major threat from antifa was embraced in particular by Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Barr had long harbored concerns about protests and violence from the left. Soon after taking office in early 2019, he began a weekly national security briefing by asking the F.B.I. what it was doing to combat antifa, according to two people briefed on the meetings. Officials viewed his sense of the threat as exaggerated. They explained that it was not a terrorist organization, but rather a loose movement without an organization or hierarchy, and tried to correct what they described as misperceptions, according to one of the people.

Still, in meetings last year with political appointees in Washington, department investigators felt pressured to find evidence that antifa adherents were conspiring to conduct coordinated terrorist attacks.

But while Mr. Trump and others saw the developments as evidence of a major assault from the left, the picture was actually more complicated.

The shooting by Mr. Reinoehl, as the F.B.I. pointed out this month in an internal memo, was the first killing in more than 20 years by what the bureau classifies as an “anarchist violent extremist,” the type of threat Mr. Trump had emphasized.

Over the late spring and summer, the F.B.I. opened more than 400 domestic terrorism investigations, including about 40 cases into possible antifa adherents and 40 into the boogaloo, a right-wing movement seeking to start a civil war, along with investigations into white supremacists suspected of menacing protesters, according to F.B.I. data and a former Justice Department official. Even among those movements, career prosecutors saw the boogaloo as the gravest threat.

A group affiliated with the boogaloo, a loosely organized far-right movement preparing for a civil war, in Lansing, Mich., in October.

Members of violent militias began to go to protests as self-appointed police forces, sometimes saying that they had heeded Mr. Trump’s call. They attended Republican events as self-described security forces.

Still, Justice Department leadership was adamant that terrorism investigators focus on antifa as the demonstrations spread, according to an official who worked on the inquiries.

The small cadre of intelligence analysts inside the department’s counterterrorism section were pulled into the effort, writing twice daily reports. National security prosecutors staffed command posts at the F.B.I. to deal with the protests and associated violence and property crimes, and to help protect statues and monuments seen as potential targets.

All of this was a strain on the counterterrorism section, which has only a few dozen prosecutors and like other parts of the department was reeling from the coronavirus. A top F.B.I. domestic terrorism chief also expressed concern to Justice Department officials over the summer about the diversion of resources.

The counterterrorism section at the time was working with prosecutors and agents around the country on cases involving people affiliated with the Three Percenters, Oath Keepers, other militia members and violent white supremacists. In some parts of the country, agents who had been investigating violent white supremacists pivoted to investigate anarchists and others involved in the rioting, struggling in certain cases to find any conspiracy or other federal charges to bring against them.

Around the same time, the F.B.I. was tracking worrisome threats emanating from the far right. Agents in Michigan monitoring members of a violent antigovernment militia called Wolverine Watchmen received intelligence in June that the men planned to recruit more members and kidnap state governors, according to court documents.

After six members of the group were charged in October with plotting to abduct Ms. Whitmer, one of Mr. Trump’s most vocal opponents, the president insulted her and reiterated that the left posed the true threat. “She calls me a White Supremacist — while Biden and Democrats refuse to condemn Antifa, Anarchists, Looters and Mobs that burn down Democrat run cities,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.

Dozens of F.B.I. employees and senior managers were sent on temporary assignments to Portland — including the head of the Tampa field office, who was an expert in Islamic terrorism, according to current and former law enforcement officials — where left-leaning protests had intensified since tactical federal teams arrived.

Some F.B.I. agents and Justice Department officials expressed concern that the Portland work was a drain on the bureau’s effort to combat what they viewed as the more lethal strains of domestic extremism. The bureau had about 1,000 domestic terrorism cases under investigation at the time, and only several hundred agents in the field assigned to them. The Homeland Security Department even sent agents to Portland who were usually assigned to investigate drug cartels at the border.

Mr. Barr also formed a task force run by trusted U.S. attorneys in Texas and New Jersey to prosecute antigovernment extremists. Terrorism prosecutors working on the investigations arising from the summer’s violence were not told beforehand of Mr. Barr’s decision. They questioned the rationale behind the task force because it seemed to duplicate their work and could create confusion, according to two people familiar with their pushback.

Ultimately, the federal response to last year’s protests elicited a mixed bag. Federal prosecutors nationwide charged more than 200 people with crimes, including some who self-identified with antifa.

But the F.B.I. also charged adherents of the boogaloo, including an Air Force sergeant suspected of murdering a federal officer and trying to kill another in California. The sergeant had previously been charged with the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz County during a gun battle on June 6 that led to his arrest.

As attorney general, William P. Barr played up the threat from antifa, a loose collection of leftist agitators, even as Justice Department and F.B.I. officials saw a greater threat from the far right.

Domestic terrorism has long been a politically sensitive issue for the Department of Homeland Security.

A warning in a 2009 homeland security report that military veterans returning from combat could be vulnerable for recruitment by terrorist groups or extremists prompted backlash from conservatives, forcing the homeland security secretary at the time, Janet Napolitano, to apologize and retract the report. An edited version was eventually issued, but the lesson about the political risks of highlighting far-right extremism lingered inside the department.

“They overhype the threat of the far left at the expense of far-right extremism,” said Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst at the department who wrote the 2009 report.

Like Mr. Barr, Mr. Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, Chad F. Wolf, took his lead from the White House and emphasized the threat from antifa. At one point, Mr. Wolf formed a task force that deployed tactical agents to protect statues and monuments.

Mr. Wolf denied that the administration’s response to the violence at racial justice protests came at the cost of efforts to combat far-right violence, noting that the agency affirmed the rising threat of white supremacy in an assessment in 2019.

Mr. Trump said in May that he intended to designate antifa a domestic terrorist organization. National Security Council staff members, including Andrew Veprek, an ally of Stephen Miller who is now at the State Department, asked homeland security officials for evidence to justify such a designation. They sought information about possible ties between antifa and foreign entities; federal law defines domestic terrorism but the statute does not carry any criminal penalties, and designations of terrorist organizations are limited to foreign groups.

In fact, the F.B.I. had seen troubling evidence of white supremacists in the United States with foreign ties, including one group that agents believe was being directed by an American living in Russia. The group, called the Base, was such a severe threat that the F.B.I. briefed Mr. Barr about it.

Homeland security officials balked at helping designate antifa as a terrorist organization, and the effort failed.

Officials in the department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis also expressed concern after Mr. Wolf questioned one of their reports that labeled the boogaloo as “far right” in describing the shooting death of the federal officer in which the suspect, an Air Force sergeant, was linked to the movement. Asked about his response, Mr. Wolf said he was only trying to gain information, not alter reports.

Under the Trump administration, analysts in the intelligence and analysis office had even more incentive to produce reports on threats outside of right-wing extremism, said Elizabeth Neumann, the former assistant homeland security secretary for counterterrorism and threat prevention under Mr. Trump.

Many viewed their performance reviews as tied to whether they produced reports that aligned with the Trump administration’s priorities, including Mexican cartel organizations, foreign terrorism and antifa, rather than reports on militias and white supremacists. The number of warnings about all types of extremists in the second half of last year eventually dwindled, according to current and former officials.

“You can read the tea leaves and say domestic terrorism isn’t going to be our priority,” Ms. Neumann said.

“The culture absorbs those messages they hear the president speak or tweet,” she said, adding that some White House officials even cautioned against using the phrase “domestic terrorism.”

Last spring, Brian Murphy, then the homeland security intelligence chief, requested $14 million to bolster training and increase staff to analyze social media for extremist threats, given that online forums had become a prime recruiting and organizing ground.

Mr. Wolf’s deputy, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, rejected the request, as well as an appeal for $8 million, officials said.

Mr. Cuccinelli said in a statement that requests for additional funding would have come at the expense of other parts of the agency. He added that he had been working to shift resources from other parts of the department to expand training for the intelligence branch.

Mr. Murphy had filed a whistle-blower complaint in September that prompted an outcry. He accused department leaders of ordering him to modify intelligence assessments to make the threat of white supremacy “appear less severe” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa. Mr. Wolf and Mr. Cuccinelli have denied the allegations, and after congressional backlash, they eventually released a report in October identifying white supremacy as the “most persistent and lethal threat” in the United States.

As he campaigned for re-election, Mr. Trump focused relentlessly on antifa, which at one point he sought to designate as a terrorist organization.

Campaigning for re-election, Mr. Trump spent the summer blaming rioting and violence on Democratic governors and mayors and warning about a “left-wing cultural revolution.”

Armed far-right militia groups started appearing at racial justice protests and demonstrations about the outcome of the election. Extremists groups like the Proud Boys marched in Washington in December, clashing with anti-Trump protesters in altercations that included stabbings.

The Homeland Security Department’s intelligence branch issued an assessment on Dec. 30 highlighting the potential for white supremacists to carry out “mass casualty” attacks, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times.

But there was no specific mention of armed groups targeting the Capitol, despite plenty of indicators online. The acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda D. Pittman, later said that the department knew militias and white supremacists would be coming and “that there was a strong potential for violence and that Congress was the target.”

In the days before Jan. 6, the Secret Service was told by homeland security officials to expect only an “elevated threat environment,” according to people familiar with the meeting.

The doors to the House chamber after the attack on the Capitol. Trump administration officials did not foresee the extent of the threat from the far right.

The Trump administration, however, continued to play up the threat of antifa. The night before the assault on the Capitol, the White House issued a memo seeking to bar any foreigners affiliated with antifa from entering the country and, once again, try to determine if the movement could be classified as a terrorist organization.

When the pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, some shouted explicit chants against antifa. Others were captured on video yelling, “We were invited by the president of the United States.”

Mike Baker and John Eligon contributed reporting.

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Zolan Kanno-Youngs is the homeland security correspondent, based in Washington. He covers the Department of Homeland Security, immigration, border issues, transnational crime and the federal government’s response to national emergencies and security threats. @KannoYoungs

Defund the police Defund the police Defund the police

Defund the police” is a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources. Activists who use the phrase may do so with varying intentions; some seek modest reductions, while others argue for full divestment as a step toward the abolition of contemporary police services.

Activists that support the defunding of police departments often argue that investing in community programs could provide a better crime deterrent for communities; funds would go toward addressing social issues, like povertyhomelessness, and mental disorders. Police abolitionists call for replacing existing police forces with other systems of public safety, like housing, employment, community health, education, and other programs

Progressive Democrats, including Ilhan Omar and Cori Bush, criticized the former president for painting defunding as little more than a divisive “slogan.”

Obama’s remarks — particularly his use of the term “slogan” — were promptly lambasted by several progressive Democrats, including Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Kentucky state Rep. Charles Booker and Cori Bush, who made history last month when she became the first Black woman elected to represent Missouri in Congress.

“We didn’t lose Breonna because of a slogan,” said Booker, referring to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot dead in her own apartment by Louisville police in March. Booker broke barriers in 2018 when he became the youngest Black lawmaker elected to the Kentucky state legislature in nearly a century.

“We lose people in the hands of police. It’s not a slogan but a policy demand,” wrote Omar, who is the first woman of color to represent Minnesota in Congress and one of the first two Muslim women to serve in the legislative body.

“It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive,” Bush said.

Cori Bush on Twitter Said “With all due respect, Mr. President—let’s talk about losing people. We lost Michael Brown Jr. We lost Breonna Taylor. We’re losing our loved ones to police violence. It’s not a slogan. It’s a mandate for keeping our people alive. Defund the police”

I do understand what defund the police means yet most white folks do not they only hear one word (DEFUND  prevent from continuing to receive funds.) and will use this as a weapon. It will be used against Black Lives Matter and any one who is a Democrat running for office on any level. Words matter we must avoid slogans that can be twisted.

 

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