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Garland defends DOJ memo despite NSBA letter being withdrawn

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Attorney General Merrick Garland launched a staunch defense of his controversial Justice Department memo on school boards, arguing the National School Boards Association’s decision to withdraw its letter likening parent protesters to domestic terrorists didn’t change the merits of his memo — despite his reliance on the NSBA letter’s concerns in penning it.

Garland revealed last week that the DOJ and the White House communicated about the late September NSBA letter before Garland issued his early October memo, and emails from the NSBA showed it was in touch with the White House about its letter prior to publishing. Internal emails showed NSBA board members objected to sending the letter to President Joe Biden, and the NSBA ended up withdrawing the letter the day after Garland’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, raised the issue again on Wednesday, asking Garland during a hearing if he had any second thoughts about his memo, but the Biden attorney general insisted it was still wise despite admitting last week that DOJ had relied on the letter, at least in part, when generating his memo.


“I think all of us have seen these reports of violence and threats of violence — that is what the Justice Department is concerned about,” Garland said, pointing to a “rising tide of violence.” He added, “That’s the reason that we responded as quickly as we did when we got a letter indicating that there was violence and threats of violence with respect to school officials and school staff.”

Garland argued the NSBA’s follow-up apology letter “does not change the association’s concern about violence and threats of violence” and that “it alters some of the language in the letter, language that we did not rely on and language which we did not rely on in my own memorandum.”

The original NSBA letter referred to school board protests as akin to domestic terrorism and asked the Biden DOJ to consider deploying the Patriot Act. After a national outcry and pushback from its board members and state-level chapters, the NSBA backed away from its letter late Friday.

“On behalf of the NSBA, we regret and apologize for the letter. To be clear, the safety of school board members, other public school officials and educators, and students is our top priority, and there remains important work to be done on this issue,” the NSBA wrote. “However, there was no justification for some of the language included in the letter. We should have had a better process in place to allow for some consultation on a communication of this significance.”

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley followed up on Wednesday, arguing to Garland that “as a result of your memo, local school officials and parents may not speak up in these meetings out of fear that the federal government will do something to them,” and he added that it has a “chilling effect.” Grassley noted that the since-disavowed letter wasn’t supported by all of the NSBA even at the time of its publication and had been signed just by its two top leaders, and he asked, “Since you and the White House based your memo on this delegitimized letter, I assume you’re going to revoke your extremely divisive memo that you said was instigated because of that letter?”

But Garland said his memo “responds to the concerns about violence, threats of violence, and other criminal conduct” and nothing more.

The attorney general's memo earlier this month alleged there has been a "disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence" against school employees and school board members. It said the DOJ will "discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate.” While Garland's memo did not mention the National Security Division, which deals with terrorism and other threats, the accompanying DOJ press release did, naming it as part of the new task force.

“Presumably, you wrote the memo because of the letter,” Grassley said. “The letter is disavowed now, so you’re going to keep your memo going anyway, right? That’s what you’re telling me?”

But the attorney general stood by the memo, which he said he had worked on and signed.


“I have the letter from NSBA that you’re referring to. It apologizes for language in the letter, but it continues its concern about the safety of school officials and school staff,” Garland said. “The language in the letter which they disavow is language which was never included in my memo and never would’ve been. I did not adopt every concern that they had in their letter. I adopted only the concern about violence and threats of violence, and that hasn’t changed.”

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Tags: News, Schools, Merrick Garland, Education

Original Author: Jerry Dunleavy

Original Location: Garland defends DOJ memo despite NSBA letter being withdrawn

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