Sen. Tom Cotton ripped Attorney General Merrick Garland during testimony Wednesday over a memo instructing the Justice Department and FBI to work with local law enforcement investigating the behavior of parents who show up at school board meetings to denounce policies they disagree with.
The Arkansas Republican also cited Garland’s failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to make his point that he believes Garland’s memo is both overly broad and authoritarian in nature.
“This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful,” Cotton railed after a tense back-and-forth with the attorney general, tying Garland’s directive to recent revelations from the Loudoun County, Va., school district involving sexual assault allegations hidden by school officials and board members.
“Thank God, you’re not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, judge,” a clearly frustrated Cotton concluded.
Merrick Garland's performance as Attorney General has been shameful. He should resign in disgrace. pic.twitter.com/oyRg9Sc2NV
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 27, 2021
Garland was nominated to the high court by then-President Barack Obama during his last year in office. The Senate majority leader at the time, GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, refused to move his nomination forward, saying that the next president should get the option of nominating a justice. Obama claimed Garland was a “moderate” who would not bring an ideological bent to the high court, a claim Republicans expressed doubts over at the time. Before being named attorney general, Garland was a judge on the highly influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Cotton’s chastising came during Garland’s testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing. He endured repeated assaults from Republicans over the memo, issued earlier this month, in which he directed federal resources to local law enforcement agencies amid claims of increased threats against school board members and educators.
“Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation’s core values,” Garland said in an Oct. 4 statement. “Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.”
Garland directed U.S. attorneys’ offices and the FBI to meet within the next month with federal, state, Tribal, and local law enforcement officials “to discuss strategies for addressing” what the DoJ called “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.”
“The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate,” Garland noted further in a memo to the DOJ. “In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.”
Garland’s directive came in response to a letter from the National School Boards Association citing threats against board members and teachers, suggesting such behavior could rise to the level of “domestic terrorism.” The organization, which reportedly coordinated the letter with the White House, has since apologized.
Other Republicans blasted Garland as well, with several calling on him to step down over the memo.
“You have weaponized the FBI and the Department of Justice” against parents exercising their rights, “and I call on you to resign,” he said.
Last week, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee similarly grilled Garland over his memo, with one — Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — mocking the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), for claiming the Justice Department under former President Donald Trump was “political.”
“The chairman just said Trump’s DOJ was political. Are you kidding me?” he railed, going on to accuse Garland of “opening a snitch line on parents.”
“Republicans on this committee have sent the Attorney General 13 letters in the last six months,” he added. “Eight of the letters, we’ve got nothing – they just gave us the finger. Folks all around the country, they tell me, for the first time they are afraid of their government.”
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