DHS's Ken Cuccinelli Accuses Portland 'Rioters' of 'Domestic Terrorism'

Acting Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Ken Cuccinelli has accused demonstrators in Portland of "domestic terrorism" after video came to light of people appearing to attempt to set fire to a federal courthouse in the Oregon city.

Sharing the video, which was published online by Andy Ngô, an American conservative social media activist and journalist who has gained attention covering protests in Portland in the wake of George Floyd's death, Cuccinelli tweeted out two words: "Domestic. Terrorism."

In the footage, multiple people can be seen attempting to set fire to the courthouse, with a man shouting obscenities at the individuals and calling on them to stop at one point.

In his post, Ngô identifies the individuals as "Antifa and BLM rioters." It is not immediately clear whether any of the individuals involved associate themselves with either the Antifa, which stands for "anti-fascist," or the Black Lives Matter movements. A majority of the individuals captured in the video appear to have been white.

Domestic. Terrorism. https://t.co/UmaGAqeNKB

— Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli (@HomelandKen) July 22, 2020

While President Donald Trump has previously vowed to see Antifa, which stands for "anti-fascist," designated a terrorist organization, it is still unclear whether he would even have the authority to do that.

Under the USA Patriot Act, domestic terrorism is defined as "activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or of any state; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S."

Last month, a report published by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the "Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States" found that the majority of attacks and plots identified in a 25-year time span had come from the far right.

"The majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of rightwing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years," the report found, with far right actors carrying out two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90 percent of those in 2020.

Now, however, Cuccinelli has branded individuals identified as "Antifa and BLM rioters" as perpetrators of "domestic terrorism" as he and other DHS members have sought to justify the presence of federal law enforcement in Portland.

In a recent interview with CNN, Cuccinelli defended the Trump administration's decision to deploy officers to Portland earlier this month in response to unrest in the wake of Floyd's death.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the DHS, says federal officials had “intelligence about planned attacks on federal facilities” in Portland, Oregon.
“If we get the same kind of intelligence in other places... we would respond the same way.”https://t.co/ZuxJMTwxjo pic.twitter.com/L70hrCz3w8

— New Day (@NewDay) July 20, 2020

Cuccinelli said the DHS had deemed the deployment necessary after the department received "locally generated" intelligence regarding "planned attacks" on federal facilities.

However, in the days since, city and state officials have called on federal law enforcement to vacate the city, with those calls growing after a protester was shot in the head with impact munition and after videos posted to social media appeared to show federal officers arresting demonstrators and forcing them into unmarked vehicles.

Speaking during a press conference on Tuesday, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf said federal officers would not retreat from Portland.

The DHS chief said law enforcement officers were only targeting people suspected of having been involved in "criminal activity," according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

"We are only targeting and arresting those who have been identified as committing criminal acts," Wolf said, "like any other law enforcement agency does across the country."

"These individuals are organized and they have one mission in mind: to burn down or to cause extreme damage to the federal courthouse and to law enforcement officers," Wolf said.

The DHS chief said federal agents would only be removed from Portland's streets when the violence stops.

In the meantime, Trump has threatened to expand the deployment of federal officers to cities outside Portland, including New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Oakland and Detroit.

City mayors have spoken out against the possible move, asking the president to keep federal law enforcement officers out of their cities.

Newsweek has contacted the DHS and the White House for comment.

Portland protest
Protesters kick the door in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 20, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials as President Donald Trump threatens to use Federal law enforcement in other major cities as well. Paula Bronstein/Getty