There’s a good reason that white nationalists rejoice at Steve Bannon’s proximity to power. There’s a good reason that countless Americans look at that man so close to the Oval Office and fear his influence on their president’s mind and heart. How can Trump look the American people in the face and say that he unequivocally condemns the alt-right when one of the men who did more than anyone else to enhance its influence works down the hall?
In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
His slow reaction angered his critics even more as they were in the knowledge that a range of authority figures had warned Trump of the threat that white supremacists posed months before James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. An intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy, entitled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence” and dated May 10, shows that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security briefed Trump as recently as May, at least indirectly, about the threat of the white supremacist movement and the threat of further attacks by members of this ultra-conservative group.“We assess lone actors and small cells within the white supremacist extremist movement likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year,” the bulletin reads.The FBI explicitly says in the briefing that white supremacists are to blame for the majority of domestic extremism. They “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016…more than any other domestic extremist movement,” the document states.Not only have the security services warned Trump about the threat of white supremacists, but so too have his Democratic rivals and predecessors.