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Seven Republicans are asking Attorney General Merrick Garland to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, stating that previous testimony appeared to be “deeply misleading” in describing the department’s attempts to counter purported school board intimidation.
“The FBI should be going after mobsters, not soccer moms. Attorney General Garland has told one story but the actions of some in the Department of Justice tell another,” said Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in an exclusive statement to Fox News. “He needs to return to the Judiciary Committee and give clear answers to the American people.”
In a letter Monday, Sasse and others requested Garland clarify his remarks and suggested they conflicted with information from an FBI whistleblower and U.S. attorney’s office.
Garland testified before the committee on Oct. 27, when he faced intense questioning over his Oct. 4 memo announcing an FBI investigation of purported intimidation of school boards. Republicans have alleged that Garland was targeting parents amid fiery battles over critical race theory (CRT) and other controversial curricula at the local level. While Garland didn’t use the words “domestic terrorism” in his memo, it came shortly after the National School Board Association (NSBA) telling the administration that school boards might be encountering just that.
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“We remain deeply concerned that your October 4 Memorandum is being used by the DOJ and the FBI as a basis to pursue investigations against American parents for First Amendment-protected activities,” wrote Sens. Sasse, Cruz, R-Texas, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.
“During your testimony on October 27, you told the Senate Judiciary Committee that your Memorandum was merely about ‘setting up meetings,'” the lawmakers added.
“You stated that the ‘purpose of this Memorandum is to get our law enforcement to assess the extent of the problem’ and that the Memo ‘comes before investigations.’ When asked why the DOJ was treating parents at school boards as domestic terrorists, you said: ‘[m]y Memo says nothing about domestic terrorism, says nothing about parents committing any such things.’”
Other GOP lawmakers have similarly attacked Garland after an internal FBI email showed the agency applied the tag “EDUOFFICIALS” to all investigations and assessments of threats directed specifically at education officials.
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In a statement to Fox News, the FBI previously said the threat tag “in no way changes the long-standing requirements for opening an investigation, nor does it represent a shift in how the FBI prioritizes threats.”
“The Attorney General’s memorandum simply underscores the FBI’s ongoing efforts to assist state, local, and federal partners to address threats of violence, regardless of the motivation,” the FBI also said. “The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now.”
During October’s hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also grilled Garland on a letter from then-acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Leif Johnson. Earlier this month, Hawley similarly asked Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-I’ll., to hold another hearing on the whistleblower documents.
Johnson’s Oct. 14 letter to local officials outlined a long list of “federal crimes involving harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence.”
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“The Attorney General’s directive does not seek to hinder anyone’s free speech rights under the First Amendment, only to combat lawful threats and other criminal conduct,” read Johnson’s letter.
Johnson added that while the state has similar criminal laws, “the United States Attorney’s Office stands ready to help address those cases that require a federal response.”
DOJ did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Fox News’ Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.