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Andrew McCarthy: Antifa terrorist designation – Trump move unnecessary. Here's why

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According to President Trump and his most ardent supporters, he is a “disruptor” here to shake up established Washington ways. Nevertheless, in announcing that he will “designate” Antifa, the far-left radical movement, as a terrorist organization, he is pulling a page from the Swamp’s playbook.

It is political rhetoric portrayed as legally significant action to bring to heel an array of sociopaths that, to be sure, are playing their now familiar instigator’s role in the rioting that roils American cities.

The purported designation would be pointless, in that the means of taking aggressive enforcement action against Antifa, and against domestic terrorism generally, are plentiful and ready to hand. The president’s move would also be legally invalid because, under federal law and for very sound reasons, designation is available only for foreign terrorist organizations.

Antifa is a domestic enterprise. The name “Antifa” has a European pedigree, going back to the self-described anti-fascist movements of the radical Left, beginning in the 1920s. And there are some overseas groups that also use the name.

To the extent, however, that Antifa has a relevant identifiable existence as an entity promoting seditionist violence in the United States, it is as a loosely knit, interstate American group (as much as Antifa itself would be repulsed at the thought of being part of AmeriKKKa and fancies itself as an agent of global anarchism).

As the New York Times has reported, Antifa is organized in local autonomous cells around the country. Though it is said to lack “official” leaders, it does have operatives who move across the country making mayhem. More significantly for present purposes, on Sunday (the same day the president’s imminent designation of Antifa was announced), the Trump Justice Department branded Antifa a domestic terrorist group.

As Attorney General Bill Barr’s press statement put it, “the violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
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