A crowdpleaser, although it’s too bad it won’t get a vote in the House. It would have been fun to watch the Squad explain after voting no why Antifa is Actually Good. Especially after the … unpleasantness at the Tacoma ICE detention facility last weekend.
Like any terrorist organization they choose to pursue their political ends through violence, fear & intimidation. They must be stopped. I’m proud to introduce this resolution w @SenBillCassidy to properly identify what Antifa are: domestic terrorists. —> https://t.co/3qDDun7Tp3
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) July 18, 2019
Antifa is a domestic terror organization. This is a group of hateful, intolerant radicals pursuing their extreme agenda through violence. They are masked bigots, attacking others b/c they don't agree with their ideas. The time to stop Antifa is NOW! https://t.co/trBrXm0GgF
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) July 18, 2019
You’ll find the text of the resolution, which is only about a page long, at Cassidy’s Senate website. Interestingly, the attack on the detention facility isn’t mentioned in the “whereas” section listing Antifa’s many misdeeds. Presumably Cassidy and Cruz decided to stick to examples of mob violence, like the mauling of journalist Andy Ngo, rather than lone-wolf attacks. One of the main criticisms of this resolution, after all, will be that Antifa isn’t really a discrete cohesive national organization, let alone responsible for every crime committed by someone in the name of “antifascism.”
Also interesting: The resolution doesn’t call on the DOJ to take any specific action against the group.
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) calls for the groups and organizations across the country who act under the banner of Antifa to be designated as domestic terrorist organizations;
(2) unequivocally condemns the violent actions of Antifa groups as unacceptable acts for anyone in the United States;
(3) expresses the need for the peaceful communication of varied ideas in the United States;
(4) urges any group or organizations in the United States to voice its opinions without using violence or threatening the health, safety, or well-being of any other persons, groups, or law enforcement officers in the United States; and
(5) calls upon the Federal Government to redouble its efforts, using all available and appropriate tools, to combat the spread of all forms of domestic terrorism, including White supremacist terrorism.
What are the legal consequences of being labeled a “domestic terrorist organization” by the federal government? There are none, as far as I know. There are consequences to being designated a “foreign terrorist organization” by the State Department but the label Cassidy and Cruz are trying to slap on Antifa here is really just a badge of illegitimacy. Which is useful in itself: The further you head out towards the lefty fringe politically, the more Antifa-friendly the locals get. A resolution passed by both houses of Congress, with bipartisan support, declaring that Antifa is a terrorist outfit would make life harder for progs who are trying to mainstream the group’s violence as some sort of necessary bulwark against the alt-right.
It would also ignite a lot of slippery-slope chitchat about Congress abusing the “domestic terrorist” designation in the future to brand disfavored groups as enemies of the state. Naturally progressives would demand that the next Democratic-controlled Congress respond by designating one or more right-wing groups, like the Proud Boys, as domestic terrorists. That might end up being Chuck Schumer’s justification for voting no on this bill if and when McConnell brings it to a vote: It’s not that Dems are covering for Antifa by opposing the resolution, he’ll say, it’s that the federal government shouldn’t lightly label any domestic outfit as “terrorists.”
Although that would/will raise an uncomfortable question for him. If “domestic terrorist” shouldn’t apply here, why was Obama’s DHS using that term to describe Antifa three years ago?
Anyway, maybe that explains why the resolution is so toothless. Cassidy and Cruz might have concluded that if they had called for some specific criminal penalty against Antifa, it would have made opposition to it that much more vocal. At the end of the day, all this is, I assume, is a way to get Democratic senators — especially the 2020 contenders — to take a position on Antifa on the record in the Senate. If they oppose the resolution for whatever reason, it’s new fodder for Trump’s campaign message that Democrats are a bunch of violence-loving radicals. Plus, Cassidy and Cruz may believe that there are already laws on the books that the DOJ can use to go after Antifa if only they had a little nudge from Congress in the form of a resolution like this to do so. Although it’s true that there are no legal consequences to being designated a “domestic terrorist organization,” it’s also true that federal law allows the Justice Department to prosecute people for “material support” to terrorist groups — and not just foreign terrorist groups either. Only very rarely does the DOJ use that statute in cases of domestic terror, but if this resolution passed Bill Barr could point to it potentially in court as justification for prosecuting Antifa members under the “material support” statute the next time they gang-stomp a reporter’s skull.
Here’s Ngo calling for the feds to “step in” and start looking at how the group is organized and who they’re connected to. Maybe Trump will issue an executive order? If so, he’ll probably save it for the thick of the campaign.