The threat of domestic violent extremism in the United States remains high, a top U.S. Justice Department official said on Thursday, brushing aside Republican accusations that the FBI is inflating the number of cases for political reasons.
“What I can tell you is that the intelligence community has assessed that the threat we face from domestic violent extremism is elevated, and that is consistent with what we see,” Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general of the National Security Division, said during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Olsen’s comments came after Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the panel, asserted that “multiple whistleblowers” had approached House Judiciary Republicans, alleging that FBI officials were pressuring field agents to categorize cases as domestic violent extremism, even though they did not meet the criteria for such classification.
“Are you juicing the numbers?” Jordan asked.
Olsen responded that he was not aware of the accusations.
Jordan, one of the most outspoken critics of a congressional investigation into the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot, first made the allegations Wednesday in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. In it, he alleged that FBI agents were “bolstering the number of cases of DVEs to satisfy their superiors” and demanded documents and information related to the investigations.
“According to whistleblowers, the FBI uses these metrics to dispense awards and promotions,” Jordan wrote. “Every whistleblower has called it an environment of ‘pressure’ within the FBI.”
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment on Jordan’s allegations.
The FBI defines domestic violent extremists, or DVEs, as “individuals who commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of ideological goals.”
The FBI tracks several categories of domestic violent extremists. White supremacists and anti-government militias have been responsible for most deadly attacks in recent years.
In his prepared testimony, Olsen said FBI investigations of domestic violent extremism cases have more than doubled since 2020.
Hundreds of these cases stemmed from the January 6, 2021, mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. The FBI is investigating the attack as “domestic terrorism.”
Last September, Wray told lawmakers that the number of active domestic violent terrorism cases had jumped from about 1,000 in early 2020 to 2,700, while the number of so-called homegrown violent extremist cases remained stable, at around 1,000.
To date, federal prosecutors have charged more than 860 people in connection with the January 6 attack. More than 350 people have been convicted or pleaded guilty to various charges.