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Domestic extremists pose ‘heightened threat’ to 2022 midterms: Law enforcement

Hill Street Studios/Getty Images/STOCK

(NEW YORK) — Domestic violent extremists across the ideological spectrum pose a “heightened threat” to the 2022 midterms, according to a joint intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News.

The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and the U.S. Capitol Police also warn that following the midterms, “perceptions” of election fraud could cause violence.

“We assess that election-related perceptions of fraud and DVE reactions to divisive topics will likely drive sporadic DVE plotting of violence and broader efforts to justify violence in the lead up to and following the 2022 midterm election cycle,” the bulletin dated Friday said. “Following the 2022 midterm election, perceptions of election-related fraud and dissatisfaction with electoral outcomes likely will result in heightened threats of violence against a broad range of targets―such as ideological opponents and election workers.”

Domestic violent extremism activity leading up and during the midterms are likely to focus on “election-related infrastructure, personnel, and voters involved in the election process as attractive targets—including at publicly accessible locations like polling places, ballot drop-box locations, voter registration sites, campaign events, and political party offices.”

“Potential targets of DVE violence include candidates running for public office, elected officials, election workers, political rallies, political party representatives, racial and religious minorities, or perceived ideological opponents.”

The hope, the law enforcement agencies say, is possibly to sway voter habits, undermine perceptions of legitimate elections or prompt a particular government reaction.

“Enduring” ideological grievances and the “perceptions” of election fraud are “likely” driving the potential for DVE violence.

Certain factors that are likely to increase a DVE attack during the election cycle are people urging violent action, threats related to perceived illegitimate elections, perceptions of voter suppression and attacks on one group or party.

The federal government bulletin comes as the NYPD warned this week that poll workers could be targets and urged vigilance.

“However, hostile rhetoric and an abundance of generalized threats from likeminded [extremists] and malicious actors in chat groups, encrypted messaging channels, and other online forums may effectively create echo chambers that circulate and reinforce false narratives and establish a permissive environment for violent action against election-related infrastructure and personnel,” the NYPD bulletin dated on Wednesday and was first reported by ABC News states.

The number of domestic terrorism investigations nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, largely due to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a report released Friday by the FBI and DHS.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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