In the wake of the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino massacre in El Paso last week, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of seven Democratic senators running for president, vowed to carry out a concerted crackdown on white supremacist groups if elected, saying she would order federal investigators to penetrate racist organizations and thwart potential violent attacks.
"As president I would direct my Department of Justice to investigate white supremacy and other domestic terrorist groups," Gillibrand said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "To infiltrate them, to make sure we know if they're planning attacks and to actually combat white supremacy in society because these groups are domestic terrorists."
The New York Democrat said domestic terrorism should be a federal crime and expressed support for a bill spearheaded by her colleague Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois that would bolster the government's efforts to combat domestic terrorist movements.
According to court documents unsealed Friday, the 21-year-old white man suspected of killing 22 people inside a Walmart in El Paso last Saturday admitted to police that he targeted Mexicans. A manifesto he purportedly authored that federal investigators are scrutinizing denounces the growing Latino community in Texas as an "invasion."
Like other high-profile Democrats, Gillibrand drew a direct link between President Trump's rhetoric on immigration and the apparent motives of the gunman.
"His words have consequences, and the words he has been using have been hateful and divisive and racist and has truly emboldened white supremacy and hate crimes across this country," she said Sunday.
Asked if singling out the president for his rhetoric in the aftermath of two mass shootings might ratchet up tensions in the country, Gillibrand said Mr. Trump is the one making matters worse.
"He is not leading us in the right direction," she said. "He has used words like 'infestation.' He's used words like 'invasion.' That is creating a climate where people are literally today fueled by anger and hate. They are hunting down other people using weapons of war. That's what we're up against right now."