Republican lawmakers lambasted Attorney General Merrick Garland after newly revealed documents showed the National School Boards Association coordinated with the White House more than two weeks before warning of “domestic terrorism” threats from parents.
A timeline provided by NSBA President Viola Garcia revealed that the association interacted with the administration just days before Mr. Garland alerted law enforcement to the parental threat, which was sharply condemned by parent groups and even by state school board associations affiliated with the Alexandria, Virginia-based NSBA.
Republican lawmakers, who have been severely critical of Mr. Garland’s action, said the documents confirm their worst fears.
“The more backstory we get on why AG Garland sent the FBI after parents, the worse it gets,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, North Carolina Republican.
According to Ms. Garcia’s internal memo, the NSBA met with White House officials on Sept. 14 and prepared a letter to President Biden to request federal assistance for threats against school board members.
Ms. Garcia also told NSBA colleagues that Mr. Garland’s Oct. 4 memo directing the FBI and other federal agencies to address the threats was “In response to the letter,” in which the NSBA said the threats “could be equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.”
The NSBA internal documents were posted on Thursday by Parents Defending Education.
Amid sharp criticism of the letter, including member associations quitting the group, the NSBA apologized for the letter to Mr. Biden. Mr. Garland, however, stood by his memo alerting federal law enforcement agencies to the potential threat from parents.
The new documents not only point to collusion between the Biden administration and the NSBA but also contradict Mr. Biden’s vow to have an independent Justice Department.
Sen. Ted Cruz said Mr. Biden and Mr. Garland “have politicized and weaponized the Department of Justice on behalf of Democrats who don’t want parents involved in their own children’s education.”
“It should be a surprise to no one that the Biden administration coordinated with these groups behind the scenes,” said Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican. “AG Garland should be embarrassed by his memo, and he should retract it.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, called for the attorney general to step down in light of the revelations.
“I said it before: Merrick Garland should resign in disgrace,” he said.
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month, the attorney general pushed back when Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, asked if the White House directed him to write the memo.
“No one in the White House spoke to me about the memo at all,” Mr. Garland said. “I am sure, at least I certainly would believe, that the White House communicated its concerns about the letter to the Justice Department, and that is perfectly appropriate.”
Less than a week after the hearing, the committee’s 19 Republican members launched an investigation into a Biden-NSBA scheme.
They sent a letter on Oct. 27 to the NSBA saying that “parents cannot tolerate this collusion between the NSBA and the Biden administration to construct a justification for invoking federal law enforcement to intimidate and silence parents using their constitutional rights to advocate for their child’s future.”
During a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, asked Mr. Garland if he was planning to revoke the memo since the NSBA had apologized and said: “There was no justification for some of the language included in the letter.”
Mr. Garland stood by his directive and said it came “in response to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct — that’s all it’s about.”
“The language in the letter that they disavow is language that was never included in my memo and never would have been,” he said. “I did not adopt every concern that they had in their letter. I adopted only the concern about violence and threats of violence and that hasn’t changed.”
School boards in nearly a dozen states have since severed their relationship with the association over the letter.
The Washington Times reached out to the Justice Department for comment on Friday and a spokesperson said the department “would refer back” to parts of an exchange between Mr. Cotton and Mr. Garland during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Oct. 27.
The spokesperson specifically pointed to Mr. Garland’s response to Mr. Cotton’s question: “Are you aware of conversations between your Department of Justice officials and White House officials, and the members of the School Board Association, all cooperating together?”
Mr. Garland said he was “sure” the DOJ had conversations with the White House, but that he “had no idea” if the department had conversations with the NSBA — and if it did, “there’s nothing wrong with there being such conversations.”
“In the same way you ask me to worry about violence in the streets, it’s perfectly appropriate for the White House to urge me to worry about violence in the streets,” Mr. Garland said. “[In the] same way, they’re — perfectly appropriate for the White House or any other organization to urge me to worry about election threats.”
He added, “There’s nothing that I … knew about this organization to suggest that it is in any way partisan.”
The Times also reached out to the White House for comment and a spokesperson said, “We contacted DOJ after we were notified about threats of violence because we were concerned about the trend.”
“We discussed policy — not enforcement actions,” the spokesperson said. “DOJ chose to take this approach on their own.”
• Mica Soellner contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of the story had an incorrect quote by NSBA President Viola Garcia due to an editing error.