House Judiciary GOP Asks U.S. Attorneys for Info on Meetings Prompted by Garland School-Board Memo

Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 21, 2021. (Michael Reynolds/Pool/Reuters)

House Judiciary Committee Republicans sent letters to 93 U.S. attorneys on Monday demanding information on any meetings that have occurred between the attorneys, the FBI, and local school boards in accordance with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s directive to investigate purported threats and acts of violence against school boards across the U.S.

On October 4, Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to investigate alleged threats being made against school board officials by parents who have spoken out against the use of critical race theory and other racially-charged teachings in the classroom, among other issues. Garland’s direction came after a the National School Boards Association wrote to the Biden administration that parents were engaging in “domestic terrorism.”

The NSBA requested federal intervention to probe and potentially prosecute parents found guilty of threatening school administrators. However, the NSBA later backtracked on its original request and issued an apology statement reversing its characterization of parent protests at school board meetings as “domestic terrorism.”

Now, the Republican lawmakers are requesting that the attorneys turn over all documents and communications referring or relating to convening meetings in accordance with Garland’s memorandum, which directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to “convene meetings” in each judicial district “with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders” within 30 days.

The letters note that the Justice Department also “issued a press release indicating that the Attorney General’s directive would ‘open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response by law enforcement’—in other words, create a snitch line for complaints about concerned parents.”

The lawmakers — including ranking member Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and Representative Chip Roy of Texas— note that when Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee on October 21 “he appeared to have no idea whether the U.S. Attorney meetings he ordered were actually taking place.”

Garland testified: “I don’t know whether [the meetings] are ongoing, but I expect and hope that they are going . . . because I did ask that they take place.”

The attorney general added that he doubted “there have been meetings in every jurisdiction,” but said he believes it is important for federal law enforcement authorities to conduct these meetings in every judicial district by November 3, 2021 at the latest. 

Despite the NSBA issuing an apology for its letter requesting a federal investigation, Garland has not rescinded his memorandum.

“Concerned parents voicing their strong opposition to controversial curricula at local schools are not domestic terrorists,” the letters say. “Parents have an undisputed right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. When parents, however, cross the line to commit a violent act or issue a criminal threat, state and local authorities are best-equipped to handle these violations of state law.”

The lawmakers add that “we must not tolerate the use of the federal law enforcement apparatus to intimidate and silence parents using their Constitutional rights to advocate for their child’s future.”

The letters close by requesting agendas, minutes and notes referring or relating to meetings in each district, details on when meetings have or will occur, and the names and titles of all  U.S. Attorney’s Office employees involved in the meetings. The lawmakers also requested information on all organizations that were invited to or attended the meetings, as well as all formal and informal recommendations produced in any meetings. 

The lawmakers asked the attorneys to share the requested materials no later than November 15.

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