Senate Judiciary Republicans Laying Groundwork for Wider Probe of School Board Letter Scandal

Senate Judiciary Republicans Laying Groundwork for Wider Probe of School Board Letter Scandal
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, left, and the committee's ranking member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. talk on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, during the committee's hearing on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Mark Tapscott

Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans, led by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, are asking many detailed questions concerning the federal targeting of parents who voice their opinions at local school board meetings.

The extensive details being sought from Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Education Michael Cardona could result in a minority report on the issue during the 2022 midterm congressional election, as well as lay the groundwork for a much deeper probe in 2023 if the GOP regains control of the Senate.

The 11 Republican lawmakers on the committee told Cardona in a Jan. 18 letter: “We recently learned that you may have requested that the National School Boards Association (NSBA) send to President Biden its September 29, 2021, letter, which compared concerned parents speaking out at local school boards to domestic terrorists.
“That letter was the proximate cause of Attorney General Garland issuing a memorandum on October 4, 2021, directing the FBI and the various U.S. Attorneys to focus on harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence directed at school officials. That action by Attorney General Garland has created a dramatic chilling effect on parents throughout the country and is an inappropriate deployment of federal law enforcement.

“It appears that you, the Secretary of Education, instructed a trade association to write a letter to the President of the United States so that the Attorney General might have the requisite cover to deploy federal law enforcement in a manner so as to scare American parents out of speaking freely at school-board meetings and petitioning their local governments.”

The signers in addition to Grassley, who is the ranking Republican on the committee and a past chairman of it, and Blackburn, include Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Michael Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The trade association involved in the controversy is the National School Boards Association (NSBA), which asked President Joe Biden to direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to use federal intelligence resources under the Patriot Act to monitor alleged threats of violence against local school board members by parents protesting the inclusion of critical race theory (CRT) and related materials in public school curriculums.

The NSBA request caused an outcry as soon as it became public because the Patriot Act was enacted to deal with international terror threats in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Garland’s directive to the FBI elevated the issue as a factor in the Virginia governor’s race won by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who actively supported parents protesting the Loudoun County school board, which is now being investigated by the state’s new attorney general, Jason Miyares.
Documents leaked to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, disclosed that the FBI created an official file dubbed “EDUOFFICIAL” to collect intelligence on the protesting parents.

The Republicans asked Cardona whether he or anyone else at the Department of Education (DOE) requested that the NSBA write its Sept. 29, 2021, letter to Biden. They also want to know how Cardona learned of the issues raised in that letter, whether the White House communicated with the DOE about the letter, and whether the DOE communicated with DOJ, among other issues.

A DOJ spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“The Secretary did not solicit a letter from NSBA,” a DOE spokesman told The Epoch Times in an email. “To understand the views and concerns of stakeholders, the Department routinely engages with students, teachers, parents, district leaders and education associations.”

Mark Tapscott is an award-winning senior Congressional correspondent for The Epoch Times. He covers Congress, national politics, and policy. Mr. Tapscott previously worked for Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Montgomery Journal, and Daily Caller News Foundation.
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