- Garland tells House panel the FBI referred 6 cases to state and local authorities.
- Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., said FBI counterterrorism agents targeted hard-working American citizens.
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Merrick Garland told a House panel Wednesday that a controversial 2021 memo he wrote said the FBI received 22 reports of threats against school officials and referred six cases to state and local authorities to investigate.
Garland issued his memo to FBI agents about assisting local law enforcement days after receiving a letter from the National School Boards Association, which followed widespread reports of parents threatening school board members, administrators and teachers over COVID-19 policies.
The revelation about how many reports the memo generated is significant to House Republicans because they have accused the Justice Department of targeting parents protesting at school boards, which Garland denies.
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Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., said Garland should withdraw the memo because it resulted in federal counterterrorism agents investigating Americans protesting at school boards rather than leaving conflicts for local authorities.
“Six were actually investigated by the counterterrorism division of the FBI, citizens of this country who were trying to make their voices heard at their school board meetings and instead were tagged by the FBI as terrorists by agents of this government seeking to silence their voices,” Cline said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the Justice Department’s budget.
Garland said the memo was aimed at violence and threats of violence, and that parents protesting at school boards are protected by the Constitution.
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“The investigations were not aimed at hard-working individuals who were just trying to protest,” Garland said. “My understanding is that there were no full field investigations opened at all. All of them in the end were referred to state and local” authorities.
Here is what we know about the inquiry:
GOP questions FBI ‘threat tag’ for school board cases
Republicans have said whistleblowers reported the FBI using a “threat tag” to track potential investigations of parents who protested at school boards. Cline asked why the FBI created the tag EDUOFFICIALS to label the cases.
“After it was determined that this was not a national threat, you refused to withdraw the memo and agents of the FBI continued to act as if your memo were still in force and still in effect,” Cline said.
Garland said tags help the FBI measure cases by different categories, such as for threats against educators or Supreme Court justices.
“Tags don’t mean anything other than a way to track how many threats of this kind are aimed at particular kinds of people, so the FBI can figure out whether this is a serious problem or not a serious problem,” Garland said.
School-board memo part of wide-ranging GOP investigations of Biden administration
The school board memo has become one of the highest profile inquiries House Republicans have focused on, amid wide-ranging investigations of the Biden administration. The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has also subpoenaed former executives of a school board advocacy group.
Other inquiries at the Judiciary Committee include whether social media companies are suppressing conservative views. The Oversight and Accountability Committee has focused on the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
House Republicans planned another hearing Wednesday to question the FBI and Education Department about providing more documents dealing with school board investigations.