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DOJ considering new laws to designate violent domestic extremists as terrorists

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

In response to continued threats of domestic extremism following the deadly riot on Jan. 6, the Department of Justice is considering new domestic terrorism laws, an official announced Thursday.

The FBI reported an elevated risk of violence associated with domestic extremists after the attack on the Capitol and increased assaults on Asian Americans, Department of Justice (DOJ) Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann told the House Committee on Appropriations.

Virginia Democratic Rep. Ben Cline asked Wiegmann about his proposal to codify a domestic terrorism charge in the criminal code.

“One of the things we’re looking at is, would we need new authorities?” Wiegmann said. “The question we’re really wrestling with is: Are there gaps? Is there some type of conduct that we can envision that we can’t cover or would it be an otherwise benefit in having something else other than what we’re having now?”

Wiegmann said the agency has not reached any conclusions on what the news laws might be, but said the department would work with Congress if the time comes. “It is something we’re actively considering,” Wiegmann told the committee.

“Espousing an extremist ideology is not a crime, nor is expressing hateful views or associating with hateful groups,” Wiegmann said. “But where an individual tries to impose or promote an ideology through acts of violence, often on a mass scale, those acts can be among the most serious crimes we confront as a society.”

The FBI and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the Jan. 6 attacks to learn the motivations behind them and whether they are related to domestic violent extremists, according to Wiegmann. U.S. attorney’s offices are required to notify the DOJ of any cases with ties to domestic extremism so the agency can track the development.

The DOJ can charge individuals for arson, hate crimes, threats, riots, hoaxes, attacks on federal officials and facilities and various weapons and explosives charges, Wiegmann said. Over 430 people have been charged in connection with the Capitol riot where supporters of former President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol building.

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