House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Joe Biden’s Justice Department for an ‘egregious abuse of power’ on Tuesday and demanded Attorney General Merrick Garland testify before Congress about the counterterrorism tactics the FBI is using to investigate parents.
‘In an egregious abuse of power with the potential to unfairly track Americans’ activities, President Biden’s Department of Justice is using FBI criminal and counterterrorism resources to target parents,’ McCarthy said in a statement.
‘Attorney General Garland must return to Congress to address, under oath, in detail, the discrepancies regarding the directives he issued involving investigating America’s parents,’ he demanded.
Garland testified on Oct. 21 that the Justice Department and its components were not using counterterrorism tactics to target ‘concerned parents at school board meetings’ but Republicans say they have documentation that shows differently.
McCarthy also blasted Biden for going after parents instead of ‘actual threats.’
‘This is further proof that we have a President in the White House who is more interested in going after our own citizens, including concerned parents, than he is in going after actual threats. This raises the question that should alarm every American: if the Biden administration is using our country’s top law enforcement agency to go after parents, what are the actual threats they are ignoring?,’ he said.
The House GOP leader was responding to the revelation the Federal Bureau of Investigation has created a ‘threat tag’ to flag all investigations into potentially criminal threats, harassment and intimidation of educators.
Republicans argue this could be used to target parents protesting local education policies. Parents have taken to going to school board meetings to express concern about the teaching of critical race theory, transgender policies and other issues.
The GOP saw education become a succesful campaign issue in the 2019 Virginia gubenatorial election, where concerned parents came out in numbers to help their candidate win.
The latest revelations came from an FBI whistleblower, who provided an email dated Oct. 20 to House Republicans sent on behalf of the counter-terrorism division and the criminal division.
The email referenced Garland’s Oct. 4 directive to the FBI to ramp up its involvement in school board threats, and notified agents of a new tag, ‘EDUOFFICIALS,’ to assign to any threats against school administrators, board members, staff or teachers to determine the scope of the problem on a national level and to provide a ‘comprehensive analysis of the threat picture.’
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy slammed Joe Biden’s Justice Department for an ‘egregious abuse of power’ on Tuesday and demanded Attorney General Merrick Garland testify before Congress about tactics the FBI is using to investigate parents
The email referenced Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Oct. 4 directive to the FBI to ramp up its involvement in school board threats, and notified agents of a new tag, ‘EDUOFFICIALS,’ to assign to any threats against school administrators, board members, staff or teachers
Republicans slammed the move.
‘This disclosure provides specific evidence that federal law enforcement operationalized counterterrorism tools at the behest of a left-wing special interest group against concerned parents,’ House Republicans claimed in a letter to Garland.
The email directed agents to analyze the motivation behind the criminal activity and to identify whether there were potential federal violations that could be investigated and charged.
Republicans say the FBI has inserted itself into what would usually be a local issue due to its political nature, in an effort to ‘silence’ parents who disagree with schools’ progressive policies.
Garland in early October set up a task force comprised of the FBI, the national security division, the criminal division, the civil rights division and others to tackle threats against school staff. Republicans said that Garland’s inclusion of the national security division proved that he was targeting parents as ‘domestic terrorists.’
Garland testified on Oct. 21 that the Justice Department and its components were not using counterterrorism tactics to target ‘concerned parents at school board meetings.’
Garland testified that he could not ‘imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor … a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorists.’
Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that new evidence shows Garland’s testimony was ‘incomplete and requires additional explanation,’ or that Garland may have ‘willfully misled the committee about the nature and extend of the department’s use of federal counterterrorism tools,’ against parents.
On September 29, the National Association of School Boards (NASB) sent a letter to President Biden claiming that ‘America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat’ due to ‘attacks…for approving policies for masks’.
The letter likened parents’ objections to ‘a form of domestic terrorism’ and fueled outrage.
Parents protest cricial race theory being taught at Scottsdale Unified School District
Protesters gather during a Portland Public Schools board meeting to discuss a proposed vaccine mandate for students on October 26
Days later on Oct. 4, Garland released an announcement that said it had engaged the FBI and local law enforcement to tackle the ‘disturbing trend’ of teachers being threatened or harassed.
Garland said the uptick in ‘harassment, intimidation and threats of violence’ has been in ‘recent months,’ a time in which progressive school boards across the country have seen furious parents protest policies such as gender-neutral bathrooms and critical race theory teachings and teachers quit their jobs over them.
Garland said his department would take a series of actions to address the threats.
In his memo, Garland said there was a ‘disturbing’ trend of violence.
‘In recent months there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff who participate in vital work of running our nation’s public schools,’ Garland wrote in his memo.
‘While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.
‘The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur and prosecute them when appropriate.
‘In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.’
But the NSBA later withdrew its letter likening parents to domestic terrorists and apologizing for the language, but Garland defended his directive to the FBI in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Oct. 27.
The DOJ has admitted that, at least in part, the NSBA letter prompted its move to ramp up intervention into education threats.
‘The language in the letter which they disavow is language which was never included in my memo and never would’ve been. I did not adopt every concern that they had in their letter. I adopted only the concern about violence and threats of violence, and that hasn’t changed,’ he said.
Garland said that while he didn’t have data on the scope of threats nationwide, news reports and complaints from school board officials pointed to the problem becoming more prevalent.
At a House Intelligence subcommittee hearing this month, Department of Homeland Security intelligence official John Cohen testified that he’d seen calls for violence against teachers and school board members on extremist platforms, but such reports were sporadic and local law enforcement didn’t view them as a widespread problem.