House Republicans pressure DOJ for info on school board memo: 'Pretext to silence parents'

Sen. Tom Cotton calls for Merrick Garland’s resignation over schools memo

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., calls out the attorney general for his memo directing the FBI to look into reports of threats against school board members and has harsh words for teachers union leader Randi Weingarten.

FIRST ON FOX: House Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding more information regarding his controversial Oct. 4 memo addressing the harassment of public school officials, citing concerns his directive is a “pretext to silence parents across the country.”

The letter, led by Republican Reps. Nancy Mace and Ralph Norman of South Carolina and James Comer of Kentucky, gives Garland a Nov. 17 deadline for providing documents and information that support the memo, which directed the FBI and U.S. attorney’s offices to investigate “threats of violence” at school board meetings in order to combat what the Department of Justice (DOJ) called a “disturbing trend” of harassment of school officials.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021.
(Tom Brenner/Pool via AP)

The Republicans are asking for proof that shows a national increase in the harassment of school officials, as well as all communications between DOJ employees and the White House regarding the memo. They also want to see all previous drafts of the memo and an outline of the DOJ’s guidelines for ensuring that “prosecutions are not targeting individuals in retaliation for exercising fundamental rights or civil liberties.”

“It is very alarming to me that the U.S. Department of Justice is being weaponized to target parents who are simply concerned with the well-being of their children,” Norman said in a statement. “Now more than ever, parents should have an active involvement in what their children are being taught, especially as school districts across the country incorporate far-left ‘social justice’ efforts within their academics.”

The congressional members are calling for any information that inspired the memo other than the letter sent to the Biden administration by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) calling for federal action to address hostilities toward school boards as possible acts of “domestic terrorism.” 

Garland told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that the letter did impact his office’s decision-making, but he insisted it was not the sole basis for the memo and that other evidence, including “public reports of violence and threats of violence,” informed his final decision.

Attorney General Merrick Garland returns following a brief recess of a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Garland already missed a deadline on Monday by Senate Republicans requesting the information that supported his memo after he told committee members it was forthcoming. 

Wednesday’s letter also requests documents in connection with any ethics guidance that Garland sought related to issuance of the memorandum, citing conflict of interest concerns regarding his son-in-law’s company, Panorama Education, a technology company that pushes critical race theory-related ideas and provides services to school districts nationwide.

“The Attorney General seems most focused on exercising his powers as the Nation’s top cop to label parents as domestic terrorists, simply for having an opinion on what their children are being taught in school,” Mace said in a statement. “I have major concerns about the Attorney General’s impartiality as it has been widely reported his family has a financial stake in teaching CRT in our schools.”

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Oct. 21, 2021.
(Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS)

“Instead of attacking parents who pay his salary, the Attorney General should focus on prosecuting real threats of terror, domestic and abroad,” she said. “We’ve seen no action on organized crimes like the devastating riots in Charleston in May 2020 which shuttered businesses and spread violence. Parents who care about their kids’ education are not terrorists.”

“The Biden Administration is more concerned about going after parents here at home who want to protect their children from radical propaganda being taught in classrooms than fighting terrorists in Afghanistan who seek to harm women, children, and U.S. troops,” Comer said in a statement.

“Concerned parents advocating on their children’s behalf aren’t domestic terrorists. It’s outrageous the Biden Administration colluded with left-wing education activists to treat them as such. The Justice Department must provide us with answers about their efforts to silence parents across the country.”

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