Republicans press Merrick Garland on pulling National Security Division into school board memo

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Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are demanding Attorney General Merrick B. Garland provide information as to why he involved the Justice Department’s National Security Division in his school board memo.

In a letter sent Tuesday, 19 GOP representatives called on Mr. Garland to give them documents about what prompted his plan to form a task force with the NSD and other agencies to address threats against school board members.

“It is unclear what threat the department believes American parents pose to our national security, nor why the department could view any threat posed by parents as requiring coordination with our foreign intelligence agencies,” the Republicans wrote.

The request is part of their investigation launched last week into the attorney general’s Oct. 4 memo directing federal officials to meet with law enforcement within 30 days to develop strategies to address a “disturbing spike” in threats against school board members and education personnel.

In a press release accompanying his memo, Mr. Garland said he expects to form a task force “to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute these crimes” and ways to assist local law enforcement where threats may not be federal crimes.

The lawmakers grilled the attorney general over the memo during a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month.

“Unfortunately, in testimony before the committee, Attorney General Garland was unable or unwilling to explain why he directed the National Security Division to participate in this ill-conceived endeavor,” they said in the letter.

They want him to provide all documents and communications between Department of Justice employees and the NSD related to the task force, the alleged threats and what federal statutes the division intends to use to investigate “concerned parents at school board meetings.”

Parents, they said, have the “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,” they wrote. “But 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 lawmakers said they want the documents by Nov. 16.

Mr. Garland has come under fire from GOP lawmakers over the memo, which he says was prompted by news reports and the National School Boards Association’s Sept. 29 letter to President Biden.

In the letter, the NSBA asked if the federal government could examine “enforceable actions” under federal laws, including the Patriot Act in regard to domestic terrorism, to address the increasing threats and violence, which it said could be “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

The NSBA apologized for the letter last month.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, Mr. Garland was asked if he would rescind the memo since the association has apologized for its letter, saying “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”

The attorney general declined. “The language in the letter that they disavow is language that was never included in my memo and never would have been,” he said.

“I did not adopt every concern that they had in their letter,” Mr. Garland said. “I adopted only the concern about violence and threats of violence and that hasn’t changed.”

The Washington Times sent a request for comment to the Justice Department on Tuesday.

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