WASHINGTON — FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Thursday that the bureau views Antifa as “more of an ideology than an organization,” undercutting statements by President Donald Trump and others in his administration that Antifa is leading, organizing and funding acts of violence in cities across the country from a national level.
Trump, as well as Attorney General William Barr and Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan, have all recently condemned Antifa for flying organized groups to cities across the country to incite violence. NBC News previously reported that a CBP spokesperson said there was no evidence to support Morgan’s claim of organized groups boarding planes.
Wray, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, said the FBI has seen local organizing by Antifa. “We have seen folks who subscribe or identify with the Antifa movement, who coalesce regionally into small groups or nodes and they are certainly organized at that level.”
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Wray said FBI’s investigations into domestic violent extremists have increased in 2020, having made more than 120 arrests and opened over 1,000 investigations.
He said anti-government and anti-authority groups were the most lethal this year. In recent years, he said, racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists have been responsible for the most lethal attacks, with white supremacists making up the largest portion of those killings.
Wray also said the FBI has seen “very active efforts” by Russia to influence the 2020 election, primarily to “sow divisiveness and disorder” and “denigrate Vice President Biden.”
Wray, along with Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller, testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on worldwide threats to the homeland. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad Wolf did not appear, despite being asked to testify, citing his pending nomination for secretary and a precedent that past nominees have not testified on other topics ahead of their nomination hearings.
Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson declined to allow Wolf’s deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, to testify in his place. Thompson, who issued a subpoena for Wolf to appear, said, “Mr. Wolf has run the Department of Homeland Security for the last 10 months and has been responsible for numerous decisions directly relevant to the subjects the Committee intends to explore.”
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In Wolf’s absence, Wray took center stage on topics ranging from recent protests and civil unrest to foreign influence in the upcoming election.
Wolf also said the Chinese view themselves as in an international talent war and envy the talent of the United States. As a result of their attempts to steal intellectual property, the FBI is opening a new Chinese counterintelligence investigation “about every 10 hours.”
Julia Ainsley is a correspondent covering the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
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