GOP lacks evidence for wide-ranging claims about FBI and school boards


House Republicans released an interim report this week that accuses the Justice Department of ‘weaponizing’ the FBI against parents who engage in the ‘protected First Amendment activity’ of criticizing council officials school. The very first example in the report supporting this claim is telling, but perhaps not in the way its authors intended.

“In an investigation, an FBI field office questioned a mother for allegedly telling a local school board ‘we’re picking you up,'” said the report, which was placed on the record at a deputy hearing. House Judiciary Committee Thursday. He says the woman told the FBI she was simply referring to “coming” for officials in election terms.

House Judiciary Committee Republicans did not provide many details about the incident, but the details it did provide matched an incident in Michigan in late 2021. Both involve an activist for Moms for Liberty, an FBI counsel and activist talks about replacing school board members.

In Michigan’s case, the activist’s comments went far beyond “come for you.” According to video from the November school board meeting in Brighton, Michigan, the woman said, “We’re picking you up. Take it as a threat. Call the FBI. I do not care. Either you’re all going to be called back, or you’re all — we’re all coming for you. This is what is happening.

The committee would neither confirm nor deny that this is the example cited. But its use would be consistent with a long-running campaign by congressional Republicans that has often circumvented or exceeded available facts.

Republicans have claimed a 2021 memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland on tackling a ‘worrying spike’ in school board threats was actually aimed at suppressing dissent – ‘a political offensive designed to quell growing discord “, according to the terms of the new report.

They cited a letter the National School Boards Association released just before Garland’s memo. The letter suggested that such threats amounted to “domestic terrorism”. The NSBA later apologized for the language, but the Department of Justice never used that language or endorsed it. And the Justice Department and Garland have always characterized their concerns as threats only, not complaints.

Regardless of what one thinks of the involvement of the NSBA or the federal government in such things, there remains no direct evidence that this effort was influenced by politics – and that includes in the new interim report.

The report accuses the Biden administration and the NSBA of “extensively collaborating” to “create a rationale” for Garland’s memo. His evidence is that the Justice Department had contact with another group, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, about threats against the school before Garland released his memo, which the NSBA shared. an embargoed copy of his letter with the Biden administration a day earlier, and that the Justice Department shared a copy of Garland’s memo with the NSBA shortly before its October 4, 2021 release.

But there’s nothing in the report that addresses the findings of an independent report commissioned by the NSBA that “did not find direct or indirect evidence to suggest that the administration requested the letter or specified, edited, or reviewed the contents of the letter before the letter was sent, or otherwise specifically requested that it be written.

The report mainly rehashes old arguments. But it also repeatedly suggests that Garland’s memo was written with the education-focused 2021 Virginia governor’s race in mind. He goes so far as to say, “The administration’s goal appears to have been to silence critics of its radical education policies and neutralize an issue that threatened the Democratic Party’s prospects in the tight gubernatorial race. in Virginia.” But he offers no contemporary evidence or communication to support this.

The report also provides little evidence of abuse of this authority.

It says the FBI has admitted to only opening 25 “assessments” in cases involving alleged threats from school boards, only one of which led to a “full investigation” and none of which led to federal charges. The report casts the lack of arrests as “highlighting the political motives behind the Attorney General’s actions.” But he also acknowledges that the majority of cases have been referred to state and local authorities.

(Reuters in February 2022 reported that school boards were “inundated with threats of violence and other hostile messages,” citing 220 examples in a survey in 15 states.)

The report also continues a long trend of taking liberties with the evidence and giving the issue a political twist.

On page 1, the report cites Garland’s testimony from October 2021, saying he acknowledged that the NSBA letter was, in its words, the “sole basis” for the Justice Department’s actions. But in the exchange the committee highlighted for the claim, Garland didn’t say that; he called the letter a “relevant factor” and also cited “newspaper reports reporting threats of violence”.

The report also repeatedly references the Justice Department directing information about such threats to the National Threat Operations Center, describing it five times as a “whistleblower line.”

The ‘alert line’ allegation was addressed at a hearing this month by Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), who falsely suggested to Garland that the hotline was set up specifically to report angry parents. Kennedy also echoed a series of other claims that have been verified as false or baseless, including that the effort targeted parents who merely spoke out and that the FBI was applying so-called “death labels.” threat” to these parents.

The argument has become a key part of House GOP efforts to assert that the government has been “gunned down” against conservatives, and it came up again at the judiciary subcommittee hearing on Thursday. But so far – as with other such “militarization” claims – the rhetoric continues to far outweigh the actual evidence.


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