'Throwing gas on a raging fire': Ex-DHS official hammers Trump's excuses for far-right militias

President Donald Trump's refusal to pointedly denounce right-wing vigilantes has alarmed many national security veterans who are warning that political violence in America could quickly spiral out of control.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, former Homeland Security Department Under Secretary for Intelligence John Cohen warned that Trump was setting the stage for sectarian conflict on American streets when he justified his own supporters taking the law into their own hands.

"He is literally throwing gasoline on a fully raging fire,” Cohen said. "You’re going to see potentially armed extremists from the other side of the political spectrum travel to those same cities to protect the protesters. Then you run the very real risk of a full-blown firefight breaking out between these different armed camps."

Trump recently told Fox News that he would prefer professional law enforcement control violent protests, but added that "my supporters are wonderful, hardworking, tremendous people, and they turn on their television set and they look at a Portland or they look at a Kenosha... They are looking at all of this and they can’t believe it."

The president has also defended supporter Kyle Rittenhouse, who has been charged with first-degree murder after he fatally shot two demonstrators in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month.

Miles Taylor, a former DHS official, tells Vanity Fair that the entire administration from the president on down has a blind spot for far-right militants.

"They had ideological blinders on when it came to the threat and were pressuring us to make decisions about these grant programs to exclude organizations focused on domestic terrorism," he said.