The ranking member of an influential congressional committee alleges that U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland lied under oath when asserting that federal law enforcement never used counterterrorism statutes to target concerned parents in light of new testimony from a “brave whistleblower.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, joined Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., in writing a letter to Garland Wednesday.
“In sworn testimony before this Committee, you denied that the Department of Justice or its components were using counterterrorism statutes and resources to target parents at school board meetings," Jordan wrote.
"We now have evidence that contrary to your testimony, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled at least dozens of investigations into parents with a threat tag created by the FBI's Counterterrorism Division to assess and track investigations related to school boards."
Concerns about federal law enforcement agencies investigating parents who have voiced their concerns at school board meetings stem from Garland’s Oct. 4, 2021 memo attempting to address a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
The October letter came as several school board's throughout the country faced complaints from outraged parents on issues like sexually explicit material being included in school curriculums and libraries, the allegation that elements of critical race theory are being taught in schools and mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To address those issues, Garland instructed the FBI to “convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders within 30 days” to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Garland’s memo followed a request from the National School Boards Association for “federal assistance to stop threats and acts of violence against public schoolchildren, public school board members, and other public school district officials and educators.”
The NSBA suggested that federal law enforcement agencies use “the Gun-Free School Zones Act, the PATRIOT Act in regards to domestic terrorism, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, the Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, [and] the Conspiracy Against Rights statute” to take action against individuals who threaten school officials.
When appearing before the House Judiciary Committee last October, Garland insisted that “the Justice Department supports and defends the First Amendment right of parents to complain as vociferously as they wish about the education of their children, about the curriculum taught in the schools."
“That is not what the memorandum is about at all," Garland said at the time.
“I can’t imagine any circumstance in which the PATRIOT ACT would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor can I imagine the circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorism.”
In the letter, Jordan and Johnson note that shortly after Garland’s Oct. 4 memo, “the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division and Criminal Division announced the creation of a new threat tag — EDUOFFICIALS — and directed all FBI personnel to apply it to school board-related threats.”
“We have learned from brave whistleblowers that the FBI has opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings,” the letter reads. “The information we have received shows how, as a direct result of your directive, federal law enforcement is using counterterrorism resources to investigate protected First Amendment activity.”
The congressmen's letter contends that in one case, an FBI field office “interviewed a mom for allegedly telling a local school board ‘we are coming for you.’” The exact location of the FBI office was redacted.
“The complaint, which came into the FBI through the National Threat Operations Center snitch-line, alleged that the mom was a threat because she belonged to a ‘right-wing mom’s group’ known as ‘Moms for Liberty’ and because she ‘is a gun owner,’” the letter states. “When an FBI agent interviewed the mom, she told the agent that she was upset about the school board’s mask mandates and that her statement was a warning that her organization would seek to replace the board with new members through the electoral process.”
Another FBI investigation mentioned in the letter looked into a father opposed to school mask mandates. The investigation followed a complaint from the “National Threat Operations Center snitch-line,” suggesting that the father “fit the profile of an insurrectionist” because he “rails against the government,” “believes all conspiracy theories” and “has a lot of guns and threatens to use them.”
The person who filed the complaint told the FBI that they had “no specific information or observations of … any crimes or threats” but elected to contact the law enforcement agency after learning of the Justice Department’s website designed to “submit tips to the FBI in regards to any concerning behavior directed toward school boards.”
The FBI also allegedly conducted an investigation into “Republican state elected officials over allegations from a state Democratic party official that the Republicans ‘incited violence’ by expressing public displeasure with school districts’ vaccine mandates.”
Jordan and Johnson claim Garland subjected “these moms and dads to the opening of an FBI investigation about them, the establishment of an FBI case file that includes their political views, and the application of a ‘threat tag’ to their names as a direct result of their fundamental constitutional right to speak and advocate for their children.”
The lawmakers urged Garland to rescind the October memo, which he has refused to do thus far, and turn over documents previously requested by Republicans on the Committee.
They maintain that the investigations took the FBI’s focus away from “real and pressing threats" and argued that Garland's memo “will chill protected First Amendment activity as parents will rightfully fear that their passionate advocacy for their children could result in a visit from law enforcement.”
Jordan and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy were among five House Republicans subpoenaed by House investigators Wednesday amid their investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. Jordan has already stated publicly that he didn't have anything to do with the Jan. 6 riot.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: email@example.com