Former Trump Homeland Security official Elizabeth Neumann appeared on MSNBC's "Deadline White House" with Nicolle Wallace on Tuesday to detail the extent to which President Donald Trump has aligned himself with domestic threats against the United States.
"It was probably some time around September, October of last year  when we had finished putting the strategy together to counterterrorism and targeted violence, which is the first strategy that the federal government had issued by any department or agency that called out white supremacy and anti-government extremism as a rising threat on par with ISIS," said Neumann. "The FBI later agreed with us about six months later, and now thankfully the counterterrorism community is going after this threat. At least at their level. But around that Fall, I finally had time to look up. We had made some progress."
Wallace, who served in the George W. Bush administration, explained that they faced serious international threats. "I can't imagine being a part of an administration that was rowing in the direction of the people who threaten us," Wallace said. "It sounds like you're saying President Trump is message-wise and ideologically aligned with some of our greatest threats. Is that right?"
Neumann confirmed it, calling it a complex issue. She recalled the unified focus on Al Queda, explaining to Americans what the threat was and being honest about any failures, updates to policy, laws or tools.
"When we came in in 2017, we were still focused on ISIS," said Neumann. "And it took us a while to realize that as Steve quoted that Charlottesville was more than a blip. Certainly that Charlottesville moment when you had people not hiding in the shadows espousing this ideology but out with their faces uncovered and happy, proud to espouse this hateful ideology, it certainly caused all of us to pause and say, 'Something shifted. Something is different here.'"
She noted that over the months that followed, Homeland Security secretaries all mat with the White House to explain how important it was to address domestic terrorism at the hands of white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
"For a variety of reasons, we were rebuffed," she recalled. "It wasn't exactly clear why we were rebuffed. Some of it may just be, as you can appreciate, there are many policy priorities on the National Security Council's agenda. Countering Iran was important. Defeating ISIS was important. So, there might have been some legitimate reason. Yes, we were initially rebuffed."
But by the point of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in 2018 and the Christchurch attack in 2019, Neumann said that what they feared would happen did happen.
"What we knew was increasingly globalized was on the world stage. It is a globalized white supremacist movement. The U.S. is an exporter of this movement, and the world was coming to us and asking us and the U.S. to do something about it because we were making their countries less safe," Neumann said. "At least at that moment, I would have expected the administration to hone in on this and focus on it with the same amount of intensity that the federal government had focused on ISIS and al Qaeda before it. But I didn't see that happen."
She went on to say that there were strong leaders at DHS as well as the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center who worked on the issue, whether Trump wanted to or not.
"We are safer today because of the work that's been done over the last few years," Neumann explained. "But there is no mistaking when you face a grave threat like this, it is important for there to be clarity from the top. And the fact the president will not call it out, I find it hugely ironic that he's happy to use the term domestic terrorism, which he refused to use last year after El Paso. Now he'll use it with regards to Antifa, which I worked for three years, received intelligence briefings every day. Never once was I told that Antifa was a grave national security threat."
She explained that it doesn't mean they're not a problem, but that they aren't important at a national level the way white supremacist terrorism is.
See the full conversation in the video below: