During an oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland faced repeated attacks from Republicans over the Justice Department’s efforts to crack down on violent threats against education officials and teachers.
Republicans attacked the policy as “federal overreach” intended to chill parents’ dissent against local school policies on COVID measures.
During the hearing, Garland argued that there is nothing in the department’s memo that could chill parents’ free speech rights.
“This memorandum is not about parents being able to object in their school boards,” Garland said. “They are protected by the First Amendment, as long as there are no threats of violence, they are completely protected. So parents can object to their school boards, about curriculum, about the treatment of their children, about school policies, all of that is 100% protected by the First Amendment and there is nothing in this memorandum contrary to that. We are only trying to prevent violence against school officials.”
At one point during the hearing, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, demanded that Garland “resign in disgrace” and attempted to tie the DOJ’s efforts to prevent violence against school boards to an incident in Loudoun County, Va., where a teenager was accused of sexually assaulting a fellow student in a school bathroom.
“This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful,” Cotton said. “Thank god, you’re not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, Judge.”
Watch the exchange below:
Merrick Garland's performance as Attorney General has been shameful. He should resign in disgrace. pic.twitter.com/oyRg9Sc2NV
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) October 27, 2021