Garland still cannot cite one specific example of violence or threat of violence: “I said, again, at the time, that they were news reports that had been published. And I think some of the other senators here have described some of those news reports.”
AG Garland doubled down on his memo pushing the FBI and other DOJ departments on concerned parents at school board meetings. Garland denied the NSBA letter describing those parents as domestic terrorists and whining for help influenced his decision. Yet, Garland’s move came right after the administration received the letter.
The NSBA apologized for the description, but Garland will not back away from his memo:
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, claimed that the DOJ memo had a “poisonous, chilling effect” on speech, as it specifically dealt with opposition to school board officials. When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Garland acknowledged the influence of the NSBA’s original letter, which cited instances including non-violent behavior that did not include threats, but that was deemed disruptive.
The NSBA had called for the use of measures including the PATRIOT Act, which is typically used to address terrorism. Their second letter said they “regret and apologize for the letter,” stating that “there was no justification for some of the language” that they had used.
“I assume you’re going to revoke your extremely divisive memo that you said was instigated because of that letter?” Grassley asked.
Garland defended the memo, claiming that it was a response “to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct.”
“That’s all it’s about,” he continued, “and all it asks is for federal law enforcement to consult with, meet with local law enforcement to assess the circumstances, strategize about what may or may not be necessary to provide federal assistance if it’s necessary.”
Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland says he stands by the DOJ memo targeting parents at school boards meetings—spurred by a letter from the National School Boards Association asking them to investigate concerned parents for "possible acts of domestic terrorism." pic.twitter.com/7uHdklVwvU
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 27, 2021
Garland told Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) the letter did not influence him and his only concern is violence:
“The letter that was subsequently sent does not change the association’s concern of violence or threats of violence. It alters some of the language in the letter … that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum,” Garland said after committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked if he had “second thoughts” following the apology.
Garland claimed that the DOJ is not just concerned about school board officials, but a “rising tide” of violence against judges, prosecutors, election administrators, and others.
“The only thing the Justice Department is concerned about: violence and threats of violence,” he said.
AG Merrick Garland strongly defends school boards and other elected officials from right-wing threats of violence, "The only thing the Justice Department is concerned about is violence and threats of violence." pic.twitter.com/Z6gOITBXKc
— PoliticusUSA (@politicususa) October 27, 2021
The NSBA letter and Garland’s memo do not cite specific examples of violence, threats, intimidation, or harassment.
Garland still cannot provide an example except “news reports”:
GARLAND: “Senator, to the best of my recollection, I said the impetus for my memorandum was that letter and also reports of this kind of activity.”
LEE: “What reports?”
GARLAND: “I said, again, at the time, that they were news reports that had been published. And I think some of the other senators here have described some of those news reports. And we have certainly seen subsequently more news reports and more statements by board members of threats to kill them.”
In an exchange with @SenMikeLee, AG Garland is asked to cite specific threats of violence that led to him announce a probe into parents protesting at school board meetings. Garland can't cite a single one beyond "news reports." pic.twitter.com/kERupDGM1F
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 27, 2021
Garland continued to twist his memo to fit the narrative since the NSBA apologized and now he has to say the letter did not lead to his decision.
Garland used the usual keywords and phrases like “violence” and “threats” of violence when Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) asked if he ever considered “the chilling effect this would have on parents’ constitutional rights”:
CORNYN: “Mr. Attorney General, you’ve acknowledged that parents have a right, a constitutional right to be heard on the education of their children in public schools. Can you imagine the sort of intimidation, the sort of bullying impact that a memorandum from the Department of Justice would have and how that would chill the willingness of parents to exercise their rights under threat of federal prosecution? Did you consider the chilling impact your memorandum would have on parents exercising their constitutional rights?”
GARLAND: “The only thing this memorandum is about is violence and threats of violence. And it opens with a statement –”
CORNYN: “But my question is did you consider the chilling effect this would have on parents’ constitutional rights?”
GARLAND: “To say that the Justice Department is against violence and threats of violence –”
CORNYN: “Did you consider the chilling effect your memorandum might have on parents exercising their constitutional rights? I think you can answer that yes or no.”
GARLAND: “What I considered, I wanted the memorandum to assure people that we recognize the rights of spirited debate and –”
CORNYN: “Mr. Attorney General, you’re a very intelligent and accomplished lawyer and judge. You can answer the question, did you consider –”
GARLAND: “I do not — I do not –” [crosstalk]
CORNYN: “– the chilling effect that this sort of threat of federal prosecution would have on parents’ exercise of their constitutional rights to be involved in their children’s education?”
GARLAND: “I don’t believe it’s reasonable to read this memorandum as chilling anyone’s rights. It’s about threats of violence. And it expressively recognizes the constitutional right to make arguments about your children’s education.”
Sen. @JohnCornyn: "Did you consider the chilling impact your memorandum would have on parents exercising their constitutionals rights?"
Attorney General Garland: "I don't think it's reasonable to read this memo and think it's chilling anyones rights." pic.twitter.com/6Qb8DZd71k
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 27, 2021
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