The Trump administration’s decision to cut federal funding for groups fighting right-wing violence has come under new scrutiny after the president’s controversial response to violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., The Hill reports. Trump, who faced criticism for not initially calling out white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis on Saturday, explicitly denounced the hate groups by name yesterday and vowed to fight violent extremism. The botched immediate response has some critics questioning the White House’s commitment to the issue, and they point to the funding cuts as evidence. “It’s a disgrace that Trump is cutting out Countering Violent Extremism funds for white supremacists and neo-Nazis. We know that the domestic terror threat from them is as great as it from Islamic radicals. It’s a very serious situation,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In the final days of the Obama administration, $10 million in Countering Violent Extremism funding was awarded to 31 applicants, including several groups dedicated to combating white supremacy and de-radicalizing neo-Nazis. The Trump administration froze funding for the grants while it reconsidered the applications, re-examined the goals of the program and altered how the grant program would measure efficacy. Trump proposed eliminating the program in his 2018 budget request. When the administration released its revised list of grant recipients this summer, funding was pulled for a total of 12 grant recipients — including $400,000 for a group called Life After Hate, which was one of the only original grant recipients focused on fighting far-right extremism. The nonprofit organization, which was touted by Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, is one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups.