(CNSNews.com) - Attorney General Merrick Garland's Oct. 4 memo states, "There has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff." Yet neither Garland nor his Justice Department looked into the alleged parental threats raised by the National School Boards Association.
Under sharp questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he didn't know how many incidents were cited in the letter from the National School Boards Association equating angry parents with domestic terrorists.
Nor did he know how many of those incidents might qualify as violent.
Yet, Garland testified before a House committee last week that the NSBA letter formed the basis for his Oct. 4 memo, in which Garland directed federal authorities to discuss "strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff." Garland's memo also directed the feds to "open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response."
"This memo was not law. This memo was politics," Sen. Ted Cruz told Garland. "On Wednesday, September 29, the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the president asking the president to use the Department of Justice to target parents that were upset at critical race theory, that were upset at mask mandates in schools, to target them as domestic terrorists."
Cruz said the Sept. 29 letter was "an explicit political consultation with the White House."
"Five days later...boom, you pop out a memo, giving them exactly what they want. Now, by the way, I understand that," Cruz told Garland. "In politics, that happens all the time. An important special interest wants something, 'Sir, yes, sir. We're going to listen to him.'
"Let me ask you something, General Garland. In the letter, which you told the House of Representatives was the basis for this abusive memo targeting parents, how many incidents are cited in that memo?
"I’d have to look back through the memo," Garland said.
"OK. You don't know," Cruz responded. "How many of them were violent? Do you know?"
"I don't know," Garland said.
"You don't know," Cruz repeated. "There's a reason you don't know because you didn't care, and nobody in your office cared to find out. I did a quick count just sitting here. During this hearing, I counted 20 incidents cited. Of the 20, 15 on their face are nonviolent.
"They involve things like insults. They involve a Nazi salute. That's one of the examples. My God, a parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because he thought that the policies were oppressive. General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute on an elected official, is that protected by the First Amendment?"
"Yes, it is," Garland replied.
"OK. 15 of the 20, on the face of it, are not violent. They're not threats of violence. They're parents who are unhappy. Yet, miraculously, when you write a memo -- the opening line of your memo (says), 'In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence.' You know what, you didn't look, and nobody on your staff looked. Did you even look up the 20 instances?" Cruz asked.
Garland dodged: "Look, I testified the decision to make -- send a memo is for an assessment of the problems --"
"Did you look up the 20 instances?" Cruz repeated. "Did anyone on your staff look them up?"
"I don't know the answer," Garland said.
"But of course you don't," Cruz said. "And, General, there's a reason. Look, you started your career as a law clerk to Justice Brennan. You've had many law clerks during the year, during your time as a judge. I was a clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist. I'll tell you what. If I drafted an opinion for the chief justice and walked in and it said, there's a disturbing pattern of violence.
'Well, Ted, how do you know that?' 'Well, I got an amicus brief here who claims it.' You would fire a law clerk who did that. You're the attorney general of the United States. This was not a tweet you sent. This is a memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigation saying, go, investigate parents as domestic terrorists."
"That is not what the memo says at all," Garland shot back.
"Is it what the (NSBA) letter says?" Cruz asked. "Is it what the letter says?"
"I don't care what the letter says," Garland snapped.
"You don't care," Cruz repeated. "You said it was the basis of your memo. You testified under oath before the House of Representatives, the letter was the basis of your memo. Now, you don't care about the letter?"
"The letter and public reports of violence and threats of violence. My memo says nothing about domestic terrorism, says nothing about parents committing any such things. My memo is an attempt to get an assessment of whether there is a problem out there that the federal government needs to --"
Cruz interrupted: "The letter, on its face, says, 'The actions of the parents could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism...and asks the president to use the Patriot Act in regards to domestic terrorism directed at parents."
"And that is wrong," Garland said.
"This was the basis of your memo," Cruz said. "The Department of Justice -- when you're directing the FBI to engage in law enforcement, you're not behaving as a political operative because a political ally of the president says, 'Hey, go attack these parents because we don't like what they're saying.' Department of Justice, you did no independent research on what was happening, did you?" Cruz asked.
"The memo has nothing to do with partisan --" Garland dodged.
"Did you do independent research?" Cruz asked twice more, getting the same reply from Garland that "the memo has nothing to do with partisan politics."
"You're not answering that question," Cruz observed.
At the end of the heated exchange, Cruz noted that Garland's son-in-law "makes a very substantial sum of money from a company involved in the teaching of critical race theory. Did you seek and receive a decision from an ethics adviser at the Department of Justice before you carried out an action that would have a predictable financial benefit to your son-in-law?" he asked Garland.
"This memorandum is aimed at violence and threats," Garland said.
Cruz asked him four more times, "Did you seek an ethics opinion?"
Garland eventually said, "You asked me whether I sought an ethics opinion about something that would have a predictable effect on something. This has no predictable effect in the way that you're talking about."
Twice Cruz asked Garland, "So, if critical race theory is taught in more schools, does your son-in-law make more money?"
"This memorandum has nothing to do with critical race or any kind of curriculum," Garland said.
Cruz asked several more times if Garland sought an ethics opinion:
He continued to dodge the question.
"So, you're saying no," Cruz said. "Just answer it directly. You know how to answer a question directly. Did you seek an ethics opinion?
"I'm telling you that if I thought there was any reason to believe there was a conflict of interest, I would do that, but I cannot --"
"Why do you refuse to answer the question? Why won't you just say no?" Cruz asked.
He pressed Garland, to no avail, for a few more seconds until his time was up.