Jordan issues subpoenas over school boards memo, DHS disinformation board

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday issued three subpoenas in an effort to forge ahead on two of its most controversial probes.

The panel sent subpoenas to two figures previously connected with the National School Boards Association (NSBA), part of its ongoing investigation into a short-lived Justice Department memo encouraging the FBI to coordinate with school boards amid rising violent threats to its members.

A third subpoena was sent to Nina Jankowicz, who briefly served as the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board, which was swiftly disbanded amid Republican criticism.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) has cast the 2021 school board memo as an “anti-parent directive” and claimed without evidence that the NSBA coordinated with the White House as part of a “pretext to go after parents.”

The board sent a letter to the White House the week before the memo was released, laying out a spate of incidents at recent school board meetings, noting that some threats “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

The initial letter from the National School Boards Association references a meeting with the White House and the Department of Education and asks for the Justice Department to review whether the threats may violate a number of different federal laws.

The Justice Department memo fell far short of what the group was asking for, however, stressing “coordination and partnership” with local law enforcement over any legal review.

The ensuing political storm caused the National School Boards Association to issue a statement saying its members “regret and apologize for the letter.”

While Jordan has said the policy has a chilling effect on free speech, a D.C.-based federal judge in September dismissed a suit from parents in Michigan and Virginia, saying the memo does not impact constitutionally protected conduct.

The subpoenas were sent to Viola Garcia, who is now the group’s treasurer-secretary, and Chip Slaven, the former interim executive director of the NSBA who is no longer with the organization.

The board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jankowicz, a disinformation expert who has worked throughout Eastern Europe, was hired to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created DHS Disinformation Governance Board that would help its different agencies in dealing with disinformation on topics as varied as migration to addressing plots from Russia and Iran.

But Republicans quickly labeled the board as the “Ministry of Truth” in a nod to George Orwell’s novel “1984” and couched it as a government effort to control speech.

The Department of Homeland Security “paused” the work of the board just three weeks after it was announced, indicating the group never even formally met.

Jankowicz is in the midst of fundraising to sue Fox News over the way the board was covered by the outlet, claiming it made “over 500 scaremongering statements about my role, my views, and my personal life over the next nine months.”

In a Go Fund Me post, Jankowicz said misinformation about her role began as soon as her April hiring “even though the Board had nothing to do with arbitrating or restricting speech.”

Reached for comment, Jankowicz said that she “will not be cowed by conspiracy theories or intimidation.”

“Under Jim Jordan, the abuse of congressional oversight powers is about to get wildly out of control. His ‘weaponization’ committee is the entity that is actually weaponizing our government, and the American people deserve better,” she said.

“I will happily testify to the truth of the Board under oath: That it was a working group meant to address disinformation that endangered Americans’ safety, and — because of the Republican Party’s irresponsible lies about it — our democracy is less secure.” Jankowicz added.

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