President Trump's decision to cut federal funds for groups fighting right-wing violence is attracting new scrutiny in the wake of last weekend's domestic-terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Back in May, Trump announced he was freezing $10 million in grants earmarked to fight violent extremism in the U.S. The grants were awarded in the final days of the Obama administration, to 31 groups, including several dedicated to combating white supremacy and deradicalizing neo-Nazis, the Hill reports.
At the time, Reuters reported that Trump was planning to reorient the funds toward fighting Islamic extremism instead of white-supremacist groups. Trump has since planned to eliminate the program from his 2018 budget.
Included in the frozen grants: $400,000 for a group called Life After Hate, one of the only programs in the U.S. dedicated to helping people leave neo-Nazi and white supremacy groups, and $900,000 grant that would have gone to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to counter jihadist and white supremacist recruiting.
Tony McAleer, a founder of Life Against Hate, said the organization was planning to use the money to proactively identify dangerous white supremacists online. “If they had given us the funding right away within a month or two of being awarded, we would have been up and running before Charlottesville," he said. "Whether or not we would have made a difference, it’s impossible to know."
“It’s a disgrace that Trump is cutting out Countering Violent Extremism funds for white supremacists and neo-Nazis. We know that the domestic terror threat from them is as great as it from Islamic radicals. It’s a very serious situation,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the intelligence project for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “I find the pattern of cutting this money to be typical for the Trump administration’s unwillingness to take seriously the threat posed by these people, whether they’re doing it intentionally or not.”