Ex-Homeland Security Head Says He Was Forced to Minimize Danger From White Supremacists

By Shani Saxon Sep 10, 2020

President Donald Trump showed his hand when he insisted there were "very fine people on both sides" after deadly clashes at a 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Now, a whistle-blower complaint filed Tuesday (September 8) and released on Wednesday (September 9) by the House Intelligence Committee, is accusing the Trump administration of intentionally misleading U.S. citizens by downplaying the violent threat posed by white supremacist organizations, The New York Times reports. 

Brian Murphy, the former head of the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence division, said in the complaint that Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the agency’s second-highest ranked official, ordered Murphy to edit intelligence assessments in order “to make the threat of white supremacy ‘appear less severe’ and include information on violent ‘left-wing’ groups and antifa,” according to The Times:

"In Mr. Murphy’s account, the two top officials at the department—both appointees of President Trump who have not yet been confirmed by the Senate for their positions—appeared to shape the agency’s views around the president’s language and political interests in ways that stretched the law and their authority."

Trump’s tendency to support white supremacists (or not disavow them) has coalesced with his “desire to focus voter attention on unrest in cities that has been fomented by the Black Lives Matter movement,” as The Times notes. 

According to The Times:

"Mr. Murphy was demoted from his post in August to the Homeland Security Department’s management division after his office compiled intelligence reports on protesters and journalists in Portland, Ore. But he asserted in the complaint that his real offense was raising concerns to superiors about the directions he was given and for cooperating with the department’s inspector general. He asked the inspector general to investigate and reinstate him as the intelligence chief." 

Mark S. Zaid, Murphy’s lawyer, released a statement obtained by The Times, saying that his client was punished for making these allegations. “Mr. Murphy followed proper, lawful whistle-blower rules in reporting serious allegations of misconduct against D.H.S. leadership, particularly involving political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation,” he said. 

Murphy is expected to testify privately before the House Intelligence Committee on September 21, according to The Times. “We will get to the bottom of this,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, told The Times. “[We will] expose any and all misconduct or corruption to the American people, and put a stop to the politicization of intelligence.”