‘No legitimate basis’ for 2021 DOJ memo on school board threats, says House GOP in new report
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee say in a new report that local law enforcement’s rejection of a memo issued by Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2021 about threats to school boards nationwide supports their conclusion that there was “no legitimate basis” for the directive.
House Republicans also claim in the report, which provides an update to their investigation, that the memo must have been published for political purposes – but the report does not include any direct evidence to support the allegation that any decision made by the DOJ was politically influenced. .
Democrats were quick to criticize the House GOP report, saying it lacked evidence to support its claims.
The lead Democrat on the House Judiciary Panel, Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, criticized the committee chair in a statement to CNN: “Jim Jordan selected a few sentences from hundreds of pages of documents to fabricate a book report on a conspiracy theory debunked. . As with all of his recent work, he has produced little or no new evidence to support his claims.
The GOP report comes as Republicans have accused the Biden administration of targeting conservative speech in school boards, a claim Democrats have pushed back with Garland at the center of political controversy. Republicans have also sought to elevate the issue of so-called parental rights in the classroom as a key priority for the party.
Garland’s 2021 memo, which directed federal law enforcement to meet with local officials across the country to “facilitate discussion of strategies to address threats” against education personnel, is came after a series of protests and other disruptions targeting school officials over Covid policies, curriculum and other issues.
The National School Boards Association called on the Department of Justice at the time to address these issues and wrote to President Joe Biden asking for federal government assistance in addressing violence and threats against school administrators. But the association later apologized for “some of the language” in the letter, which said the “heinous actions could amount to a form of domestic terrorism”.
The memo Garland posted said she was concerned about “unlawful” threats and harassment – but the memo never equated the parents with domestic terrorists.
Based on information gleaned from subpoenas from the Justice Department, FBI and Department of Education, the committee, led by Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, says local law enforcement officials law enforcement were ‘generally opposed’ to the memo and that there was no evidence there was a legitimate nationwide threat to school boards – and claims there is no had “no legitimate basis” for the memo.
The House Judiciary Committee Republicans also allege in their report, without providing direct evidence to support this claim, that based on “the initial set of documents produced in response to the subpoenas, it is clear that the Biden administration has abused federal law enforcement and counterterrorism.” resources for political purposes.
The report also claims that there was collusion between the White House Biden, the NSBA, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, but considers that many examples of communication cited in the report between the agencies are not not conclusive. The NSBA and the Department of Education have denied any collusion.
House Republicans have repeatedly called on Garland to rescind his memo, but the memo relates to meetings that took place two years ago.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment. A person familiar with the Justice Department’s work, however, told CNN that “the documents show that the memo, which was released in October 2021, directed US prosecutors to convene meetings within 30 days to find out. more about threats against school officials. It happened a long time ago. The DOJ was quick to forward comments from the various US Attorney’s offices to Congress. Some offices have found the meetings useful, others have not. The purpose of the memo was to open those lines of communication and that is what the DOJ did.
Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month that the memo “aimed at violence and threats of violence against a whole range of school personnel. It was not intended for parents who complained to their school board. And this happened in the context of a whole series of other types of violent threats and violence against other public officials.
Tuesday’s report highlighted three examples of local law enforcement opposing implementation of Garland’s Oct. 4 memo based on 448 pages provided by the DOJ following a subpoena. to appear.
One such example came from then-US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Steven Weinhoeft. “No one I spoke to in law enforcement seemed to think there is a serious national threat directed at school boards, which makes it seem like our priorities are being misdirected. Some have expressed concern that the federal government is meddling in an area in which it does not belong,” Weinhoeft said, according to the report.
Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Montana Joe Thaggard acknowledged that local law enforcement has reported instances of criminal threats against school administrators, but said “local law enforcement authorities law enforcement are best placed to deal with it”.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, William Ihlenfeld II, reported that the “West Virginia State Police Superintendent, explained his belief that most situations involving threats or harassment of responsible for the school can be managed by national and local authorities”.
In addition to some pushback from local law enforcement, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee claimed there was confusion about how to convey Garland’s directive to the public.
The report also cites four examples to claim that there was “a lack of enthusiasm and participation” in DOJ-mandated meetings following Garland’s memo.
The report also claims that the FBI opened 25 assessment files related to school board threats, but only one warranted a full investigation and the rest were referred to state and local authorities. None have resulted in federal prosecutions.
Cases of assessment, known as “guardian assessments,” reported by the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center are akin to tipping, and most don’t usually lead to investigations.
Republicans have seized on threat tags, created by the FBI, to internally track cases of school board threats to accuse the FBI and the Biden administration of trying to stifle conservative speech in school boards. But the creation of an internal database does not mean that the FBI has launched some kind of crackdown on parents.
The report lists some examples of people interviewed by the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center. Republicans claim the investigations were politically motivated, but the report does not provide direct evidence to support this claim and does not specify whether full investigations were opened or charges were laid in the examples given.
Among them, an FBI field office interviewed a mother who told a local school board “we’re picking you up” after a complaint alleged the mother was a threat because she belonged to a “group of right-wing mothers” and “owns a gun”. ”
Another FBI field office has opened an investigation into a father who opposed mask warrants after a complaint was filed that the father ‘fit the profile of an insurgent’ and ‘had a lot of guns to choose from’. fire and threatened to use them”.
When asked to comment on the report, the FBI referred CNN to a statement Director Christopher Wray made last month that “the FBI is not now, and never will be, in charge of controlling speech during school board meetings or elsewhere. Now, in terms of violence, threats of violence, we’re going to do as we always have, work with our local law enforcement partners to deal with violence, but we’re not charged with controlling parent speech at school board meetings or elsewhere.