Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Attorney General Garland Needs to Retract His School Board Memo
Monday, November 1, 2021

 
Last week, Attorney General Garland said something extraordinary. He said he would not withdraw his memo in which he instructed the FBI to get involved with local school boards. 
 
Why would the FBI be interested in parents meeting with school boards?
 
If there is a reason for law enforcement to be involved it’s probably something local law enforcement can handle.
 
So the direction will have the effect of intimidating parents who speak out about their children’s education. 
 
Make no mistake about it.
 
The Attorney General should withdraw that memo.
 
Here are the facts:
 
On September 29th, the National School Boards Association sent a letter to President Biden asking for help from federal law enforcement against concerned parents who are getting involved at local school board meetings. That letter compared parents to domestic terrorists. It even suggested the PATRIOT Act should be used against them.
 
On October 4th, Attorney General Garland put out a memo telling the FBI and other parts of DOJ to work with local governments on a supposed spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against local school boards.
 
The National Security Division is included too, apparently because they deal with domestic terrorists and the PATRIOT Act.
 
Attorney General Garland has since testified that he gave the Department of Justice this instruction because of what he read in the National School Boards Association letter to President Biden from just five days earlier. This is an extraordinary deployment of federal law enforcement, when we have problems like a historic murder surge and an open southern border.
 
What have we learned since then?
 
First, we learned the White House helped write the original letter from the National School Boards Association to the White House.
 
Next, we learned that state school board associations had nothing to do with putting together that letter. Over 20 of them have publicly disavowed it.
 
Think about that.
 
The White House helped write a letter to itself comparing parents who love their kids to domestic terrorists—but the actual members of the National School Boards Association had nothing to do with it.
 
On October 22nd, the National School Boards Association apologized for its original letter that started this whole mess and was never even authorized by its own board.
 
Meanwhile, 17 state attorneys general have written to Attorney General Garland saying there has been no spike in violence against local school boards.
 
So, the idea that parents pose any sort of federal threat to local school boards is all just made up – what looks to be by the White House, for political purposes.
 
Despite all that, the attorney general says he will not change one thing about his memo telling the Department of Justice to focus on local school boards.
 
That memo stands, as far as he’s concerned.
 
He says he doesn’t see how it could be interpreted to mean the FBI will go after impassioned parents. He says there are lines in Constitutional law that law enforcement can’t cross.
 
Well that’s true, but he’s been working with the Constitution his entire adult life. However, most parents and most school-board members aren’t experts in the First Amendment.
 
These parents are reading the attorney general’s own words to mean that when they speak passionately at local school board meetings, they could get in trouble with the feds.
 
So, parents are going to stop speaking up at local school board meetings.
 
And that’s what’s known as a chilling effect.
 
That might be what some at the White House or the National School Boards Association wanted all along, but it’s a horrible thing for democracy, and it should never happen in the United States of America.
 
Attorney General Garland has said how he wanted to de-politicize the Department of Justice. Now he wants federal prosecutors parsing what parents say to their local school board members.
 
This is because he thinks there’s a disturbing spike in violence by parents, but he’s not actually sure if that’s right.
 
And this instruction is going to scare parents out of speaking their minds at local school board meetings.
 
But the Attorney General won’t change his instruction to the FBI.

Mr. Attorney General, parents are not domestic terrorists, and you have only one reasonable choice. Withdraw your memo and focus on the real threats. Stop being a pawn for the White House by politicizing the Department of Justice.