Senator to AG Garland: 'Thank God, you're not on the Supreme Court!'

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., calls on Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign during a Senate hearing Oct. 27, 2021 (Video screenshot)

At a U.S. Senate hearing Wednesday, two Republican senators called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign, charging him with politicizing the Justice Department and chilling First Amendment rights by directing the FBI to target parents who protest school curricula.

In a heated exchange, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Garland his testimony and his Oct. 4 directive to the FBI are “shameful.”

“Thank God, you’re not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, judge,” he said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., joined Cotton in calling for Garland’s resignation, charging that the attorney general knew when he issued his Oct. 4 memo “that federal prosecutors would start collecting crimes that they could use against parents.”

Republican senators pressed Garland on the fact that the National School Board Association last Friday apologized for its Sept. 29 letter to President Biden characterizing parents concerned about Critical Race Theory and boys who identify as girls being granted access to girls bathrooms as “domestic terrorists.”

Last week, Garland acknowledged to the House Judiciary Committee that his memo was based on the NSBA’s original letter and “news reports.” The original letter said the objections of parents at school board meetings across the country could be considered “a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” On Friday, however, the NSBA issued a second letter saying they “regret and apologize for the letter” and “there was no justification for some of the language” that was used.

The NSBA had asked Biden to use federal law enforcement agencies to investigate parents for “domestic terrorism and hate crime threats.” The Washington Free Beacon reported emails obtained by a group called Parents Defending Education through public records requests shows coordination with the White House. The NSBA’s president and CEO sent the letter to Biden on Sept. 29 without approval from the organization’s board.

‘Disturbing spike’
At the hearing Wednesday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s ranking member, asked Garland, “I assume you’re going to revoke your extremely divisive memo that you said was instigated because of that letter?”

Garland, as he did throughout the hearing, defended his memo, insisting it was a response “to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct.”

However, the AG admitted in questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that he didn’t conduct any independent research to back his claim in the memo that in “recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.” Cruz said he found that 15 of the 20 incidents cited by the NSBA as evidence of a “spike” were non-violent, including a man who used a Nazi salute to emphasize his contention that a school board’s policies were oppressive.

Garland affirmed that the man’s salute was protected by the First Amendment.

Cotton asked Garland if he had issued a memo like the Oct. 4 memo about the Black Lives Matter riots last summer.

“They were under the previous administration,” said Garland.

The AG acknowledged that his memo was prepared only after the NSBA letter.

Cotton, noting Garland’s repeated reference to “news reports” that together with the NSBA letter prompted the writing of the memo, pointed out that the most prominent news report related to parent protests was of the arrest of Scott Smith at a Loudon County, Virginia, school board meeting after displaying his anger over the rape of his daughter in a school bathroom by a boy who was allowed entry because he identified as a girl. A judge ruled this week the girl had been sexually assaulted by the boy. And the boy was quietly transferred to another high school where it has been alleged he raped another girl.

“The Loudon County school board covered it up,” Cotton said, “because it interfered with their transgender policy during pride month.

“And that man, Scott Smith, because he went to a school board and tried to defend his daughter’s rights was condemned internationally,” the senator said.

Garland — who testified to the House last week that he had been unaware of the incident — called it “the most horrific crime I could imagine,” acknowledging the father’s protest is protected by the First Amendment.

“But he was cited by the school board association as a domestic terrorist, and … we know now that letter and those reports were the basis for your memo,” Cotton said.

“No, senator, that’s wrong,” Garland said.

“Judge, this is shameful,” Cotton interjected. “This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful.

“Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court,” Cotton said. “You should resign in disgrace, judge.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., asked Garland if he would “report back to the committee the results of your investigation about how big a threat the American parent class is to school boards in the country.”

“I will get a report back to you,” Garland replied, “but this is not about the American parent.”

“I know,” the senator replied, “it’s about the politicization of DOJ and you decided to submit as a vessel and you know better.”

See Cotton’s exchange with Garland:

See Sen. Hawley’s exchange with Garland:

‘This memo was politics’
Cruz accused Garland of breaking a promise he made during his confirmation hearings not to politicize the Justice Department, as the senator said had been done under President Obama’s administration.

“This memo was not law. This memo was politics,” Cruz said.

He chastised Garland for not vetting the premise for his Oct. 4 memo of a “spike” in attacks on school officials and teachers.

Garland insisted his memo was an attempt to get an assessment of the situation.

But the senator emphasized that a directive to the FBI was based on a “letter that has been retracted.”

Garland argued during the hearing that the NSBA’s apology for the letter and its language did not remove its concern about attacks on school officials.

Cruz also addressed the fact that Garland’s son-in-law owns a company, Panorama Education, that was paid $27 million by more than 1,500 school districts nationwide for its Critical Race Theory-based curricula.

The senator asked several times if Garland consulted with a DOJ ethics adviser regarding the relationship before issuing the Oct. 4 memo.

The AG repeatedly refused to give a yes-or-no answer but insisted there was no conflict of interest.

See the exchange:

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