Violence prompts U.S. Congress to discuss militant threats

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) speaks to the news media after a meeting at Trump Tower to speak with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in New York, U.S., November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. congressional panel next month will hold a hearing on violent extremism, including threats from domestic militants, following a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, Republican Michael McCaul, announced the Sept. 12 hearing in a letter to the panel’s top Democrat, Bennie Thompson.

The committee holds a hearing once a year, around the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to discuss worldwide threats.

A committee aide said the Charlottesville protests had prompted the decision to broaden the hearing to include threats from domestic militants.

But Thompson said the move was “not adequate or appropriate” to address his request for a hearing on threats from white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups.

“The September 12 hearing to cover worldwide threats is an annual hearing that was already scheduled prior to the domestic attacks this weekend,” Thompson said. “It will not allow us to go into the depth necessary to address the far-ranging and multifaceted aspects of the threat posed by domestic terrorist threats from white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.”

The Homeland Security Committee will invite leaders of the Homeland Security Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Counterterrorism Center, McCaul said.

“We must stand together and reject racism, bigotry, and prejudice, including the hateful ideologies promoted by neo-Nazis, the KKK, and all other white supremacy groups,” McCaul wrote in his response to Democrats’ request for a hearing.

A 32-year-old woman was killed on Saturday in Charlottesville when a car plowed into a rival protest to white supremacist demonstrators. A 20-year-old Ohio man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies has been charged with murder.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said both sides were to blame for the violence, drawing condemnation from both fellow Republicans and Democrats for failing to single out the white nationalists.

(Reporting by Eric Beech and Caren Bohan; Editing by Howard Goller and Leslie Adler)