It’s Garland’s first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) kicked off Attorney General Merrick Garland’s House Judiciary hearing on a raucous note with an opening statement attacking Garland and his Democratic colleagues.
‘The chairman just said Trump’s DOJ was political. Are you kidding me?’ Jordan asked in response to Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler’s opening statement.
He accused the DOJ of ‘opening a snitch line on parents’ with his memo announcing a crackdown on school board meeting incidents and giving lawmakers who asked about it ‘the finger.’
‘Republicans on this committee have sent the Attorney General 13 letters in the last six months,’ he said. ‘Eight of the letters, we’ve got nothing – they just gave us the finger.’
Twice during the chaotic hearing, House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) urged House lawmakers to wear masks when they were not speaking.
Earlier this month Garland issued a memo directing the FBI to work with law enforcement to crack down on a rising number of violent incidents at school board meetings and education settings. The normally apolitical field has become an ideological battleground as parents express outrage at mask mandates and critical race theory being taught in schools.
He wrote the memo after a letter from the National School Boards Association compared those parents to domestic terrorists.
Jordan cited a line in Garland’s order establishing ‘dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting’ to discuss the matter.
‘A snitch line on parents, started five days after a left wing political organization asked for it. If that’s not political I don’t know what is,’ he said. ‘Where’s the dedicated lines of communication with local leaders regarding our southern border?’
Jordan blasted Garland’s memo on school board protests as a ‘snitch line’
‘Nope, can’t do that, the Biden Justice Department is going to go after parents who object to some racist, hate-American curriculum.’
Decorum in the House hearing chamber broke down soon after when the Ohio Republican attempted to show a video of school board meetings – that Democrats claim was against the rules to show.
‘What are you afraid of?’ Republican lawmakers questioned during the heated moment.
Jordan accused Nadler of ‘censoring’ him for not allowing the video.
At another point Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) accused Garland of ‘trampling on the rights of parents.’
During the chaos Donald Trump chimed in with an emailed statement from his Save America PAC.
‘The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day. January 6 was the Protest!’ he wrote.
In his opening statement Garland condemned the Capitol rioters and swore to fight for civil rights
In his own opening, House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) attacked the rioters themselves and took an indirect swipe at his Republican colleagues.
‘This growth in extremist ideology is echoed in an epidemic of violence and intimidation directed at our health care professionals, teachers, essential workers, school board members and election workers,’ Nadler said.
He claimed there was a ‘broader pattern’ that led to increased violence across the country – from the riot, to increased attacks against Asian Americans during the pandemic, to ‘the growing threats of violence against public servants.’
‘The same set of individuals have leveraged the same sorts of misinformation, stoked the same sorts of grievances and shown remarkably little interest in solving our problems,’ Nadler said.
He told Garland at the hearing: ‘You must build back everything DOJ lost under the last administration.’
The hearing comes at a tense moment for Garland’s DOJ. House Democrats have been calling on him to enforce the January 6 committee’s subpoenas, particularly after the House’s planned vote to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt on Thursday.
Asked about the possibility of prosecuting Bannon, Garland said: ‘If the House of Representatives votes for referral of the contempt charge, the Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances – apply the facts of the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution.’
Protestors storm inside the US Capitol, Washington DC, on January 6 2021
Republican lawmakers and governors have also attacked the DOJ for the legal battle it’s waging against Texas’ restrictive new abortion law, with many accusing the Biden administration of overstepping its boundaries.
Nadler said: ‘It is a dangerous law that is repugnant to the Constitution, and I thank you for the department’s swift action to protect these rights.’
And the DOJ is also being blamed for inflaming tensions at already-heated public school situations across the country.
An escalation in violent protests at school board meetings and outside education officials’ homes over CRT and mask-wearing prompted Garland to issue a DOJ order directing the FBI and local law enforcement to tackle the ‘disturbing trend’ of teachers being threatened or harassed.
A number of top Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, have written letters to Garland expressing their anger at the move.
But at the hearing on Thursday, Nadler told Garland he was ‘right’ to direct the FBI in its crackdown.
In his opening statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the Biden Justice Department’s prosecution of January 6 participants’ ‘intolerable assault’ on the US Capitol on Thursday.
Garland lauded prosecutors’ efforts in what he calls ‘one of the largest and most expansive’ operations in US history, according to Garland’s prepared remarks obtained by Axios.
Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to connect violent Trump supporters’ ‘extremist ideology’ to the increased tensions at school boards and education settings across the country.
‘The violence we witnessed that day was an intolerable assault, not only on the Capitol and the brave law enforcement personnel who sought to protect it, but also on a fundamental element of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power,’ he will say.
‘I have great confidence in the prosecutors who are undertaking these cases. They are doing exactly what they are expected to do: make careful determinations about the facts and the applicable law in each individual case.’
To date roughly 650 people have been arrested in connection to the January 6 attack. The expansive investigation involves 55 out of 56 FBI field offices across the country.