Sen. Hawley demands answers on FBI, AG Garland school board memo: 'Silence must end'

Josh Hawley: I hope this is a moment of truth for President Biden

Republican senator reacts to President Biden preparing to nominate the next Supreme Court justice.

FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., has sent a follow-up letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) demanding answers to Senate Republicans’ questions regarding Attorney General Merrick Garland’s October 2021 memorandum seeking law enforcement intervention at school board meetings across the country.

On Oct. 4, Garland published a memo instructing local law enforcement to coordinate with the FBI in investigating disruptions at school board meetings nationwide. The memo came in response to an alleged increase in criticism, public insults and accusations against school board members. In addition, it came just days after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) sent a letter to President Biden comparing parent protests to domestic terrorism. Garland testified later in October that the NSBA letter was the basis for his memo.

“Yet again, reports have revealed even more concerning details about your infamous school board memorandum from last October,” Hawley wrote in the Tuesday letter. “In light of those new revelations, you must promptly disclose how much coordination your Department – at any level – had with outside groups.”

“In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation’s public schools,” wrote Attorney General Merrick Garland in the October 2021 notice to the FBI.

Garland went on to announce a series of meetings between federal officials and local law enforcement that would “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment and response.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Jan. 5, 2022.
(Carolyn Kaster/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

“Your memo instructed the FBI and federal prosecutors to investigate parents who were speaking at school board meetings,” Hawley wrote in his Tuesday letter. “Although you admitted that you issued the memo in direct response to a Sept. 29 letter by the National School Boards Association, which smeared parents as ‘domestic terrorists,’ you claimed in testimony before Congress that you did not know whether your office had other communications with that group. Specifically, you said, ‘I have no idea whether there were conversations with the School Board Association.’”

Hawley questioned the attorney general and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s resistance to taking responsibility for the memo, noting that the NSBA has already apologized for the situation and admitted it overstepped its jurisdiction.

“To its credit, the NSBA has since apologized for its letter and disavowed it, saying there was ‘no justification’ for it and that the letter ‘directly contradict[ed] our core commitment to parent engagement,’” Hawley continued. “But nobody has yet received a public apology from you or Secretary Cardona. And you have continued to stay silent on questions about your office’s coordination with the NSBA.”

Sen. Josh Hawley speaks with Fox News Digital Originals.

“That silence must end. The American people deserve answers,” Hawley concluded. “You said last fall that you did not know whether members of your office coordinated with the NSBA, but since then you have had plenty of time to find out. You must immediately explain your own role in this affair, as well as how intimately involved the NSBA and other groups were in shaping the official actions of your office.”

Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, led 10 of his fellow Republican senators in the original pair of letters to Cardona and Garland regarding the widely criticized NSBA correspondence.

Emails reviewed by Fox News Digital show a top NSBA official indicating that Cardona solicited the NSBA letter, although the Education Department denies that he did so.

“That letter was the proximate cause of Attorney General Garland issuing a memorandum on Oct. 4, 2021, directing the FBI and the various U.S. Attorneys to focus on harassment, intimidation and threats of violence directed at school officials,” the letter to Cardona reads.

Miguel Cardona speaks after President-elect Joe Biden announced him as his nominee for education secretary on Dec. 23, 2020, in Wilmington, Delaware. (Joshua Roberts/Getty Images)

“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,” the letter continues.

The senators referenced the Fox News Digital report on the email solicitation, saying it “makes the case” that Cardona “played an instrumental role in starting these events.”

DOJ did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

Fox News’ Houston Keene contributed to this report.

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