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DOJ talked with White House before issuing 'domestic terrorism' school protest memo

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The Justice Department spoke with the White House about the National School Boards Association letter likening parent protests to “domestic terrorism” before then issuing its memo on alleged violence and intimidation, while the White House was in talks with the NSBA about the letter prior to its publishing.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday testified that he thought it was “appropriate” for the White House to be pushing NSBA’s letter to DOJ.

He spoke as emails from within NSBA emerged showing members of its own board thought the letter to President Joe Biden was a bad idea and went too far.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, asked Garland if it was just a coincidence the NSBA sent a letter to Biden and just five days later Garland issued his memo. After attempting to dodge the question, Garland admitted the letter was "brought to our attention" and was a "relevant factor." Garland claimed to have first read the NSBA letter in the news.

Jordan asked who at the White House asked Garland to write the DOJ memo, and he replied, “No one in the White House spoke to me about the memo at all. I am sure, at least I certainly would believe, that the White House communicated its concerns about the letter to the Justice Department, and that is perfectly appropriate.”

Garland said he didn't know whether anyone else at DOJ spoke with the White House before the memo, but added: “I am sure that the communication from the National Association of School Boards [sic] was discussed between the White House and the Justice Department, and that’s perfectly appropriate.”

In January, then president-elect Biden vowed his Justice Department would be independent, saying: “More than anything, we need to restore the honor, the integrity, the independence of the Department of Justice."

Biden also told Garland: “You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or the vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me. It’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation to guarantee justice.”

Garland said Thursday he did not speak with anyone at the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, or the NSBA prior to his memo, but that he didn’t know if anyone else at DOJ did. When asked if he or anyone else helped the NSBA put its letter together, he said he didn't know, but would be surprised if that happened.

GARLAND REFUSES TO COMMIT TO ETHICS REVIEW OVER DOJ MEMO

The attorney general's memo earlier this month alleged there has been a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools.” It said the DOJ will "discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.”

The memo was released a few days after the NSBA argued to Biden that “the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes” and called upon the DOJ to review whether the Patriot Act could be deployed.

Jordan asked if DOJ had reviewed data of the “disturbing spike" cited in his memo or if there was a study showing an uptick.

“Well, the National School Board Association which represents thousands of school boards and school board members says that there are these kind of threats, when we read in the newspapers reports of threats of violence, when that is in the context of threats of violence —“ Garland said before being cut off, with Jordan retorting, “But the source for the very first line in your memo about the disturbing spike was the National School Board Association’s letter.”

New emails from within the NSBA itself that were obtained by the Free Beacon and released by the Parents Defending Freedom activist group show top members of the NSBA had been consulting with the White House about the letter. NSBA President Viola Garcia and Interim Director and CEO Chip Slaven cosigned the letter to Biden, but seem to have kept other board members in the dark, with the new emails showing pushback from other board members.

Slaven emailed the NSBA board on Sept. 29 including a copy of the letter which would be sent to Biden, revealing that “in talks over the last several weeks with White House staff, they requested additional information on some of the specific threats, so the letter also details many of the incidents that have been occurring.”

Garcia also referenced communications with Biden officials in an Oct. 2 morning email to the board.

The NSBA president also seemed to acknowledge discontent with leadership, writing: “I want to thank you for your active engagement and recent responses. … We felt compelled to say something when we started hearing about the threats, harassment, and acts of intimidation at school board meetings.”

John Halkias, a member of the NSBA board and director of its Central Region, sent an email to the members of the board on Oct. 1 where he criticized the decision by Slaven and Garcia.

“Instead of helping our members and working to decrease the tensions and hostility that many of us are facing, we seem to have fanned those flames of hostility and division,” Halkias wrote.

The NSBA board member continued: “I agree with many of my colleagues that the Board of Directors should have been consulted before a letter like this was sent out publicly, and no less to the President of the United States and the National Press. I also agree that the letter took a stance that went beyond what many of us would consider to be reasonable and used terms that were extreme, and asked for action by the Federal Government that many of us would not request.”

Halkias concluded: “I can defend the intent, but not the approach or much of the tone or content. … This letter has created a new and renewed firestorm. We have given our loudest critics more ammunition to criticize us.”

Other board members voiced similar discontent with the manner in which the letter was sent.

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Numerous state-level school board groups are also now distancing themselves from the letter, if not outright condemning it.

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Tags: News, Merrick Garland, Education, White House, Education

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: DOJ talked with White House before issuing 'domestic terrorism' school protest memo

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