FIRST ON FOX: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to clarify what his recent memo on “harassment” and “intimidation” of school officials by parents means, including whether recall election efforts amount to intimidation that should be investigated by the police.
The letter follows days of outrage over the attorney general’s memo, which came shortly after a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to President Biden that said some rhetorical clashes between school boards and parents may amount to “domestic terrorism.”
Garland’s memo told the FBI to take the lead on a task force to address threats against school officials, including creating a centralized way to report such threats.
“‘[Y]ou directed federal law enforcement to partner with state and local governments to address ‘threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation and harassment’ of ‘school administrators, board members, teachers and staff’ in public schools,” McConnell, R-Ky., wrote of Garland’s memo. “The memorandum purports to respond to a ‘disturbing spike’ in threats and harassment against these officials – although it’s silent as to the supposed perpetrators or any actual predicates for this action.”
McConnell added: “Your memorandum’s ominous rhetoric doesn’t reflect the reality of what we have seen at schoolboards across the country in recent months.”
The minority leader is far from the first Republican elected official to attack Garland over the timing and tone of his letter. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said earlier this week that appeared Garland’s memo was simply an effort to go after opponents of critical race theory. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., meanwhile called Garland’s memo “politically motivated abuse of power.”
But that the top Republican in the U.S. Senate is weighing in as well indicates that the GOP is not going to let this issue fade into the background, and that Justice Department officials appearing before Congress can likely expect to face tough questions on critical race theory and this memo for quite some time.
McConnell continues in the letter to condemn “violence, threats of violence and other criminal behavior” as “always wrong” – including the few times this year police has needed to get involved to restrain unruly parents at school board meetings. But, McConnell said, the widespread outrage against critical race theory is not something law enforcement should be involved in monitoring.
“Parents absolutely should be telling their local schools what to teach. This is the very basis of representative government,” McConnell said. “They do this both in elections and – as protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution – while petitioning their government for redress of grievance. Telling elected officials they’re wrong is democracy, not intimidation.”
McConnell further raised concerns about the work of critical race theory backers to go after the very parents Republicans believe Garland’s memo targets. He specifically noted that one Loudon County, Va., official was a member of a Facebook group that discussed hacking the websites of parents, while another was “a member of a group seeking to ‘doxx’ concerned parents.”
McConnell also asks whether Garland’s office consulted with anyone from the NSBA, the group whose letter to Biden is widely believed to have been the impetus for Garland’s memo.
DOJ officials have defended Garland’s memo in multiple Senate hearings this week. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, under questioning from Hawley, said the memo is only about violence and threats of violence, and it’s the role of the FBI address those threats.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a separate hearing that the Justice Department does not see parents as a threat and that the attorney general’s memo is only focused on threats and intimidation.
“The First Amendment is a core value of our democracy,” Clarke said. “The Attorney general’s memo deals with threats against public servants and says that threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values.”
She further clarified that she does not believe parents objecting in school board meetings are domestic terrorists.
Fox News’ Liz Friden contributed to this report.
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