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Grassley calls on Attorney General Garland to withdraw controversial school memo to FBI

"So, the Feds may be keeping track of school board meetings—even if it creates a horrible chilling effect," Grassley said.

Published: January 5, 2022 7:54pm

Updated: January 5, 2022 11:31pm

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Wednesday called out Attorney General Merrick Garland on the Senate floor to withdraw his controversial memo asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate threats and violence at school board meetings.

Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said: "Now, just to be crystal clear, there’s no excuse for real threats or acts of violence at school board meetings, but if there are such threats, these should be handled at the local level and the Attorney General should withdraw his memo that started this whole thing."

Garland wrote a memo in October instructing the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to partner to "address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel" following heated school board meetings about Critical Race Theory and other political issues in class.

In response to Garland's memo, the FBI's Counterterrorism Division created a "threat tag" to track "instances of related threats" to local school faculty and board members.

Republicans on Grassley's committee wrote two letters to Garland pushing back against the memo. The December letter began by asking Garland, "Are concerned parents domestic terrorists or not?"

The Justice Department responded to Grassley shortly before Christmas. The agency did not state why the FBI's counterterrorism division was involved in local school board issues, but the letter made clear that the department had no intention of withdrawing the original memo. 

"The Department of Justice owes the American people a better answer than just a one-page letter" Grassley stated.

"So, the Feds may be keeping track of school board meetings—even if it creates a horrible chilling effect. And, of course the FBI looking over your shoulder would have a chilling effect," Grassley stated. "Next week the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on domestic terrorism. I hope we’re going to be focusing on the serious threats facing our country—and I hope no one thinks the focus is on our nation’s parents."

Grassley argued that the Justice Department should be protecting the rights of parents to advocate for their children, rather than scaring parents out of doing so.

"Attorney General Garland should withdraw his memo. And he should take Congress’s oversight, and concern for the rights of parents, more seriously," Grassley concluded.

Conservative legal group Judicial Watch recently filed a lawsuit to obtain records about Garland's memo.

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