U.S. Markets close in 3 hrs 32 mins

US justice department news email links to white nationalist website

Julia Carrie Wong in San Francisco
Photograph: Kevin Hagen/AP

The US Department of Justice distributed a morning news briefing to immigration judges that contained a link to a white nationalist website riddled with antisemitic references.

As first identified in a report by BuzzFeed News, the executive office for immigration review (EOIR), a division of the justice department, included a link to a blogpost on the website VDare in the briefing, which was emailed to immigration court employees earlier this week.

VDare is a virulently anti-immigrant website that promotes white nationalism, white supremacy and antisemitism.

The blogpost was about an effort to dissolve the National Association of Immigration Judges, a union representing employees of the immigration courts. The post refers to the New York Times as “lugenpresse”, a German term meaning “lying press” that was adopted by the Nazis to stigmatize Jews, communists, and critics of Adolf Hitler. In recent years the slur has regained popularity within the far-right and among white nationalists. The blogpost also uses the word “kritarch” to refer to judges, a reference to a system of governance involving rule by judges in ancient Israeli history and an apparent invocation of antisemitism.

Related: Trump stands by antisemitic trope that sparked anger among Jewish Americans

“VDare’s use of the term in a pejorative manner casts Jewish history in a negative light as an Anti-Semitic trope of Jews seeking power and control,” Ashley Tabaddor, the union president, wrote in a letter to the EOIR about the incident, according to BuzzFeed News. “Publication and dissemination of a white supremacist, anti-semitic website throughout the EOIR is antithetical to the goals and ideals of the Department of Justice.”

“The daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included,” said Kathryn Mattingly, an assistant press secretary for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, in a statement to the Guardian. “The Department of Justice condemns antisemitism in the strongest terms.”

Mattingly did not immediately respond to questions about the contractor, whether the DOJ will launch an investigation or whether anyone will be disciplined.

VDare was founded by Peter Brimelow, a British immigrant to the US, and is named after Virginia Dare, who is supposed to be the first English child born in the Americas. The Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as an “an anti-immigration hate website”.

The newsletter was sent in a week in which Donald Trump twice accused Jewish Americans of “disloyalty” if they vote for Democrats. “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” he said on Tuesday.

Despite immediate criticism of the blatant antisemitism of the statement, which both invoked the bigoted trope of “dual loyalty” and assumed that Jewish Americans do and should vote solely based on US policy toward Israel, Trump repeated the comments on Wednesday.

“If you vote for a Democrat, you’re being disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he said.

According to the Pew Research Center, 79% of Jewish voters supported Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm election. According to 2018 Election Day polling by J Street, a progressive Jewish American lobbying group, the top two voting issues for Jews in 2018 were healthcare and gun violence. Just 4% of American Jewish voters selected Israel as one of their top two voting issues.

Update: On 23 August, the justice department announced that it will cease distributing the daily email and will not renew its contract with the company that provided it, TechMIS, according to the Washington Post.

“We have determined that the sampling was over inclusive and contained non-news sources,” Mattingly said of the newsletters in a statement to the Post. “EOIR will no longer be distributing a daily news briefing to its staff. EOIR strongly condemns anti-Semitism and white nationalism. Those hateful beliefs do not reflect the views of EOIR employees and the Department of Justice.”