Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Top Democrat to probe hate crimes in US

Reuters, WASHINGTON

The presumed incoming Democratic chairman of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Tuesday said that he plans to investigate the drastic spike in US hate crimes, and whether federal investigators have wrongfully targeted racial and ethnic minorities instead of focusing on white supremacist groups.

In a letter to the US Department of Justice, the FBI and the US Department of Homeland Security, US Representative Jerrold Nadler said that the agencies had all failed to address prior inquiries by Democrats about hate crimes and surveillance activities when Republicans controlled the House.

“To date, we have received little or no substantive response to any of these communications,” Nadler wrote.

“In the next Congress, this committee will likely examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups,” he added.

Nadler’s plans to scrutinize hate crimes and the federal government’s response to them marks the latest issue on a growing list that Democrats plan to probe when they take control of the House in January after making gains in midterm elections this month.

Other topics that Democrats have signaled could be probed include whether the administration of US President Donald Trump tried to block AT&T from acquiring Time Warner and retaliate against Amazon.com for political purposes, and whether Trump scrapped plans to relocate the FBI’s headquarters to avoid harming his business interests in the nearby Trump Hotel.

New data released this month by the FBI found that hate crimes jumped 17 percent last year and anti-Semitic attacks spiked 37 percent.

The data were released not long after a gunman burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue and killed 11 worshipers while shouting: “All Jews must die.”

The shooting came the day after federal authorities arrested a man in Florida for mailing explosive devices to critics of Trump, including former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton and former US president Barack Obama.

Justice department spokeswoman Kelly Laco, in response to Nadler’s letter, pointed to a list of hate crime cases the department has brought since last year.

Among the cases is the high-profile prosecution of James Alex Fields, on trial for killing a woman by driving his car into a crowd of counterprotesters after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

US Department of Homeland Security press secretary Tyler Houlton said that the agency is “committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry.”

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