Chip Roy Gives Ocasio-Cortez a Legal Lesson on Domestic Terrorism

June 5, 2019 Updated: June 5, 2019

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Rep. Chip Roy explained Tuesday that perpetrators of murderous hate crimes in the United States aren’t charged with domestic terrorism because there is no such statute.

“It is true, right, there is not a United States code … domestic terrorism statute to prosecute crimes in the United States under. Correct?” the Texas Republican confirmed with Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division during the House Oversight Committee’s hearing on confronting white supremacy.

Roy’s clarification was in response to a heated exchange between McGarrity and Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over why some white mass shooters in the U.S. are not charged with domestic terrorism while other Muslim mass shooters do receive foreign terrorism charges.

“That’s why you were describing there were no charges under it. Because there was nothing to charge,” Roy confirmed further. “However, there are numerous crimes under which you can charge people who are engaged in criminal activity, and that happens all of the time, whether it’s hate crimes or other crimes, right? Engaged in criminal activity, federal, state and local, correct?“

Pelosi, Roy
Ceremonial swearing of Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas (R) on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Jan. 3, 20, 2019. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Minutes earlier, Ocasio-Cortez failed to understand that hate crimes such as the Emanuel AME church shooting and the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting were considered instances of domestic terrorism by the FBI, but were not charged as such because the Congress did not provide a domestic terrorism statute. Instead, the FBI charges any relevant crimes and follows up with hate crime charges if permitted.

Not understanding McGarrity’s explanation, Ocasio-Cortez questioned if the difference in charges was due to Muslims being considered foreign under the U.S. penal code.

“So, because the perpetrator was Muslim they’re—doesn’t it seem that because the perpetrator is Muslim that the designation would say it’s a foreign organization?” Ocasio-Cortez asked McGarrity, specifically regarding the perpetrators of the San Bernardino shooting and the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Diana Center at Barnard College in New York
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the Diana Center at Barnard College in New York on March 3, 2019. (Lars Niki/Getty Images for The Athena Film Festival)

“No, that is not correct, that is not correct,” McGarrity responded, noting that the law does not differentiate between the religions of homegrown violent extremists. However, the FBI would classify individuals who are radicalized by the global Jihad as foreign terrorists, as was the case with the San Bernardino shooting.

By Molly Prince

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