House Republicans in the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday after an FBI whistleblower revealed information they say contradicts his previous testimony.
In Garland’s October 21 statement, he testified that the Department of Justice and its components were not operationalizing federal counterterrorism measures in response to parents protesting at local school board meetings.
However, the FBI whistleblower revealed an email sent October 20, the day before Garland’s testimony, on behalf of the Counterterrorism and Criminal Investigative Divisions. Recipients of this email were directed to apply the threat tag, “EDUOFFICIALS” to investigations and assessments of threats against school board administrators and members as well as teachers and staff.
In response to the situation, Matt Rinaldi, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and former State Representative, told the Dallas Express, “The FBI has become the enforcement arm of the Democratic Party. It ignores Antifa and BLM rioters while targeting suburban parents who criticize their school boards.”
He continued, “It is an organization that has become rotten at the core and should be abolished and replaced with a new agency directly answerable to the U.S. attorneys charged with enforcing federal law.”
According to the directive, “[T]he purpose of the threat tag is to help scope this threat on a national level and provide an opportunity for comprehensive analysis of the threat picture for effective engagement with law enforcement partners at all levels.”
The memo then further “welcome[s] any engagement to identify trends, strategies, and best practices to accomplish discouraging, identifying, and prosecuting those who use violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment, pertaining to this threat.”
According to the letter from the House of Representatives, this email appears directly contradictory to testimony given by AG Garland before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 21, where he stated that the DOJ and FBI were not approaching parents protesting Critical Race Theory curriculum or mask mandates in schools as threats of terrorism.
The House references Garland’s testimony that he “could not ‘imagine any circumstance in which the Patriot Act would be used in the circumstances of parents complaining about their children, nor… a circumstance where they would be labeled as domestic terrorists.’”
The House’s letter argues that instructing the FBI to begin tagging parents who protest at school board meetings is an activation of the Counterterrorism Division, a possibility which Garland had denied when addressing the Committee. As such, they state “this whistleblower disclosure calls into question the accuracy and completeness of [Garland’s] testimony.”
Their letter concludes with a request that Garland amend his testimony over the DOJ’s utilization of counterterrorism resources to investigate or prosecute threats relating to school board meetings. The House also asks that the Department of Justice provide previously requested documents so that they may verify Garland’s testimony and investigate further.
As a result of growing tensions between parents and school boards, CNN reported that many of the people who had served on school boards or district staff are now walking away.
“We have board members that have served for years and decided that they don’t want to bother with this anymore,” said Daniel Domenech, the executive director of the American Association of School Administrators.
“I can tell you that as the organization that represents our school superintendents, I’ve never seen the number of superintendents leaving the professional scene now because of the stress and the issues of being threatened, of being abused,” he said. “Their families are being threatened and abused.”
A law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, Douglas Laycock told PolitiFact that, “Vociferous dissenting speech at a school board meeting is protected,” but “Disrupting the meeting and making it impossible to continue probably is not. Threatening the school board with physical violence definitely is not.”