Officials within the FBI have quietly named former President Donald Trump’s “army of MAGA followers” as a new category of domestic extremists.
The challenge for the Bureau is how to “pursue and prevent what it calls domestic terrorism without direct reference to political parties or affiliations—even though the vast majority of its current ‘anti-government’ investigations are of Trump supporters,” according to unnamed sources and classified intelligence reviewed by Newsweek.
A current FBI official told the publication, “The FBI is in an almost impossible situation” being driven by the need to stop domestic terrorism and prevent any attack similar to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, but while preserving the rights of Americans to speak freely and protest the government.
The official added that the FBI is also concerned about provoking the type of anti-government activists the government seeks to counter.
“Especially at a time when the White House is facing Congressional Republican opposition claiming that the Biden administration has ‘weaponized’ the Bureau against the right wing, it has to tread very carefully,” said the official.
The report reveals a disconnect between the stated goals and realities of the federal government’s anti-domestic agenda — the filtering out of political views from criteria to investigate, while labeling supporters of a lead presidential candidate as a singular threat.
January 6 is still named as a core reason that Trump supporters should be targeted, despite there being numerous videos showing Capitol police leaving their post and doors vulnerable, others opening the doors for rioters, police peacefully leading protesters throughout the Capitol grounds, and an untold number of undercover federal agents among the crowd.
Some have long suspected the FBI played a role in ratcheting up tensions that day by using agent provocateurs to stir up the crowd and intentionally provoke violence.
During multiple hearings on Capitol Hill, federal officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, have acknowledged that agents were indeed mixed in with protestors on Jan. 6, but refuse to provide an answer on how many.
Critics of the Bureau have expressed little confidence the FBI is pursuing cases without regard to political affiliation, citing the lack of prosecutions for leftists in violent extremist groups like Antifa, who were investigated but suffered nearly no mass prosecutions despite a spree of violence in the wake of the death of George Floyd that left 30 people dead, 700 police officers injured, and $2 billion in property damage.
This view is at least somewhat supported by the classified data reviewed by Newsweek. During 2020 and 2021, there were increases in the number of investigations opened by the Bureau, a significant part of which were related to the protests after the murder of George Floyd, during COVID, as well as the elections and January 6. However, as the publication reported, “the main targets of the investigations and cases open were of Trump supporters.”
Yet, according to the Newsweek report, officials within the Bureau are split over whether to even call the alleged threat posed by Trump supporters as terrorism. They are also unsure of how many individuals pose a real threat.
“This is not media hype. But it’s also not easily quantifiable,” an FBI official said. “Are we talking just a few thousand Proud Boy types or are we talking 30 percent of the country that are core Trump voters? Are we talking extremists bent on political violence or just a lot of disgruntled and frustrated citizens? I don’t know the answer, and I can assure you the answer isn’t in any secret intelligence that the government possesses.”
Other officials admit that incendiary statements from President Joe Biden, labeling so-called “MAGA extremists” as domestic terrorists, could goad them into taking extreme action headed into the 2024 election cycle.