Garland refuses to back away from DOJ memo after school board apology


Attorney General Merrick Garland doubled down on his memo to Department of Justice employees addressing a federal response to violence and intimidation of school board officials, despite the National School Board Association apologizing for their letter of concern that inspired it.

Appearing on Capitol Hill for the second time in two weeks, Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the NSBA's second letter – which contained an apology for inflammatory language in the first one – had no bearing on the DOJ's stance.

"The letter that was subsequently sent does not change the association’s concern of violence or threats of violence. It alters some of the language in the letter … that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum," Garland said after committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked if he had "second thoughts" following the apology.

Garland claimed that the DOJ is not just concerned about school board officials, but a "rising tide" of violence against judges, prosecutors, election administrators, and others.

"The only thing the Justice Department is concerned about: violence and threats of violence," he said.

The committee's ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, claimed that the DOJ memo had a "poisonous, chilling effect" on speech, as it specifically dealt with opposition to school board officials. When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Garland acknowledged the influence of the NSBA's original letter, which cited instances including non-violent behavior that did not include threats, but that was deemed disruptive.

The NSBA had called for the use of measures including the PATRIOT Act, which is typically used to address terrorism. Their second letter said they "regret and apologize for the letter," stating that "there was no justification for some of the language" that they had used.

"I assume you’re going to revoke your extremely divisive memo that you said was instigated because of that letter?" Grassley asked.

Garland defended the memo, claiming that it was a response "to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct."

"That’s all it’s about," he continued, "and all it asks is for federal law enforcement to consult with, meet with local law enforcement... (Read more)

Submitted 31 days ago

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