Trump's promised 'commission on radical Islam' doesn't exist yet
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump said that one of his first actions would be to establish a "commission on radical Islam."
The commission would serve to educate the public about Islamic extremism and identify threats both in and out of the United States, Trump told supporters at an August 2016 rally.
Several months in, this commission doesn't yet exist. We reached out to the White House to ask for a status update, but we didn't hear back.
The most relevant action we could find was that the Trump administration has reviewed a year-old Homeland Security Department grant program called Countering Violent Extremism. President Barack Obama's administration established the program to help local communities address all violent extremist ideologies, not just radical Islamism.
In its review, Homeland Security decided to rescind a $900,000 grant the Obama administration had previously awarded to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which planned to use the money to develop media campaigns to counteract violent extremist propaganda targeted to young people, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.
Homeland Security also rescinded a $400,000 grant slated for Life After Hate, a Chicago-based group founded by former far-right extremists.
Also, when Trump visited Saudi Arabia in May, he attended the opening ceremony for the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology and delivered a speech encouraging leaders of Muslim nations to counter Islamist extremism in their own countries.
"Of course, there is still much work to be done," Trump said in his May 21 remarks. "That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamic extremism and the Islamists and Islamic terror of all kinds."
There's still time for Trump to get a U.S.-based commission together. So for now, we rate this promise Stalled.
Search of White House website, conducted June 27, 2017
Homeland Security Department, "DHS Countering Violent Extremism Grants," updated June 23, 2017
New York Times, "Trump Softens Tone on Islam but Calls for Purge of 'Foot Soldiers of Evil,'" May 21, 2017
News and Observer, "Trump administration rescinds UNC grant to fight violent extremism," June 26, 2017
NYU Brennan Center, "Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): A Resource Page," April 13, 2017
Establish a commission on radical Islam
We still don't know the exact details of Donald Trump's plan to defeat ISIS, but one thing we do know is that he wants to establish a commision on radical Islam to curb threats abroad.
"One of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us," Trump said at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, in August 2016.
Trump has not released specifics about the commission's makeup or task. The idea itself raises some important questions.
WHY HE'S PROMISING IT
According to Trump, the commission's task would be educate citizens about radical Islam and identify threats both in and out of the United States.
"The goal of the commission will be to identify and explain to the American public the core convictions and beliefs of radicalism, to identify the warning signs of radicalization and to expose the networks in our society that support radicalization," Trump said at the same rally in Ohio.
Trump had joined other Republicans in criticizing President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for not using the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Obama had argued that using that label would embolden terrorists to characterize their efforts as a holy war. Clinton, however, did say the term while explaining she preferred not to for similar reasons as Obama.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
John Mueller, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a terrorism expert, said that Trump's promise would be easy to uphold because he could simply rename an existing government entity, such as the Homeland Security Department's Countering Violent Extremism initiative.
Countering Violent Extremism is a grant program that works to identify the main cause of threats and provide resources to communities to sustain prevention of violent extremism.
Mueller said Trump could change the group name to reflect an emphasis on "Islamic" violent extremism.
In May 2016 Trump said he might select former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to head his commission on radical Islam. Since then, Giuliani has withdrawn his name from consideration for cabinet and White House positions.
WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY
There are some issues that would need to be considered if Trump follows through with his promise, including the debate over using the phrase "radical Islam."
"The big question then is to what extent the specificity of the term 'radical Islam' clarifies and makes confronting national security issues easier and to what extent it potentially raises civil liberties concerns and makes confronting national security issues more difficult," said Austin Long, an associate professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University.
Long noted that some people vehemently support the use of "radical islamic extremism" while others believe the phrase is problematic.
Furthermore, Mueller said Trump's idea does not address the underlying threat of terrorist sympathizers in the shadows carrying out attacks.
"Essentially the problem is the needle in the haystack," Mueller said.