House Judiciary Committee Republicans claimed Wednesday that FBI whistleblowers have disclosed evidence that the Department of Justice opened investigations into parents for allegedly threatening school boards.
What is the background?
Attorney General Merrick Garland incited national controversy last October after he issued a memorandum that dispatched FBI agents to investigate an alleged "disturbing spike" of "harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence" against school board members.
Garland was responding to an "urgent request" from the National School Boards Association, which claimed school board members were "under an immediate threat." That threat? Parents who showed up at school board meetings and voiced frustration over school closures, mask mandates, and progressive curriculum.
What is happening now?
Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Mike Johnson (R-La.) sent Garland a letter on Wednesday revealing the whistleblower information, and they demanded that Garland rescind his October memorandum
The lawmakers claim evidence disclosed by the whistleblowers contradicts previous congressional testimony in which Garland denied such investigative efforts against parents.
The letter states:
We have learned from brave whistleblowers that the FBI has opened investigations with the EDUOFFICIALS threat tag in almost every region of the country and relating to all types of educational settings. The information we have received shows how, as a direct result of your directive, federal law enforcement is using counterterrorism resources to investigate protected First Amendment activity.
In one instance, the FBI allegedly opened an investigation into a mom because she told school board officials "we are coming for you." She was reported as a threat because she was a gun owner and belong to the "right-wing moms group" called "Moms for Liberty." Upon investigation, she told FBI agents she was upset over mask mandates, and her alleged threat was "a warning that her organization would seek to replace the school board with new members through the electoral process," the letter explains.
In another instance, a father opposed to mask mandates was investigated after a tipster reported him as someone who "fit the profile of an insurrectionist." The evidence? Because the dad "rails against the government," "believes all conspiracy theories," and is a gun owner. When the FBI interviewed the tipster, that person admitted they had "no specific information or observations of ... any crimes or threats."
The FBI said last year the agency has "never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now. We are fully committed to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights, including freedom of speech."