Former DHS official: Trump admin empowering white supremacists

Aug 16, 2017, 4:00 AM
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesvil...

White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
LISTEN: Former Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence at DHS John Cohen

PHOENIX — A former Department of Homeland Security official said Tuesday that white supremacists are being empowered by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“They feel empowered because of all the rhetoric they are spewing out on social media and the internet and, to some degree, they feel that there is an administration in place today that is supportive of their ideological agenda,” John Cohen, the former acting undersecretary for intelligence at DHS, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St.  James and Pamela Hughes.

Cohen said extremist groups feel empowered because Trump has some ideas — building a border wall, increasing deportations and restricting both legal immigration and Muslim immigrants — that white supremacists support.

“Look I’m not getting into politics on this,” Cohen said. “I’m just talking about this as a person who has worked with Republicans and Democrats and who has focused on this issue from a law enforcement perspective.”

Cohen also said mixed messages from the White House have contributed to groups feeling more supported. Hours after Cohen spoke with KTAR News, Trump said both sides were to blame for violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. during weekend protests.

On Monday, Trump condemned white supremacist groups.

The protests were part of a new wave of white supremacy where traditional groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nation and skinheads go by different names: Vanguard America, Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Workers Party

“Whether we call them skinheads or neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan, the important fact is this: They all subscribe to the same philosophy which is one that promotes the supremacy and superiority of white people of European descent,” Cohen said.

The internet and social media have provided a way for these groups that, in the past, were geographically isolated to become interconnected.

“If I’m a local white supremacist group in Charlottesville, Va., and I want to hold a rally or a protest, I get on social media, I can draw people in from all around the country,” he said.

“They’re going on the internet, or viewing extremists on social media, they’re self-connecting with the cause, and then they are going out and committing acts of violence on behalf of the cause.”

Arizona News

(Twitter Photo/@TempePolice)...
Associated Press

Body of 18-year-old man recovered from Tempe Town Lake

Firefighters have recovered the dead body of an 18-year-old man who apparently drowned after jumping into Tempe Town Lake early Tuesday morning.
12 hours ago
(AP Photo)...

Poll finds over half oppose Ducey’s ban on mask mandates in Arizona schools

A poll of Arizonans showed more than half oppose Gov. Doug Ducey's ban on mask mandates in schools and withholding funds from districts that have mask requirements.
12 hours ago
(Bell Bank Park Rendering)...
Kevin Stone

Bell Bank gets naming rights to massive Mesa sports complex

The massive sports and entertainment complex opening next year in southeast Mesa will be known as Bell Bank Park under a 10-year naming rights deal announced Tuesday.
12 hours ago
(Twitter Photo/Phoenix Fire Department)...
Ali Vetnar

Phoenix mountain rescues decrease during pilot program to close trails in extreme heat

A city of Phoenix pilot program to close popular hiking trails during some of the hottest summer days has resulted in fewer mountain rescues for first responders, according to new data.
12 hours ago
Aloys Ntirushwamaboko (Photo via Phoenix Police Department)...

Silver Alert canceled after body identified as missing 103-year-old Phoenix man

A Silver Alert for a 103-year-old Phoenix man who had been missing for nearly a month was canceled Tuesday after formal identification of his body, authorities said.
12 hours ago
A vial of Covishield, an Indian made vaccine for COVID-19, lies at a vaccination center set up at a...

Arizona reports 1,934 new COVID-19 cases, 71 more deaths Tuesday

Arizona health officials on Tuesday reported 1,934 new COVID-19 cases and 71 additional deaths from the disease.
12 hours ago
Former DHS official: Trump admin empowering white supremacists