Josh Hawley Lights up Merrick Garland Over New Troubling Memo Against Parents

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

The Garland hearing today before the Senate Judiciary Committee was one heck of a fiery event.

We noted some of the fireworks earlier today with questioning from Republican senators

Republicans came loaded for bear and they were not at all happy with Attorney General Merrick Garland and the questionable federal effort to look into “threats” against school boards by parents. Garland demonstrated why it was a good thing that he was never confirmed to the Supreme Court with his failure to really provide answers of substance to the questions.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) particularly nailed him when he asked him about a memo from the U.S. Attorney in Montana listing 13 things for which parents might be prosecuted.

The things that Hawley listed were ridiculous if prosecutors were trying to shoehorn them into being “crimes,” including things like making annoying phone calls or using the internet in a way that might cause emotional distress. Why would these, in and of themselves, be crimes, much less federal crimes, or worthy of a federal task force?

But worse, Garland claimed to be ignorant of this memo. Hawley asked how could he not know if they were then trying to have such a list of qualifiable crimes to use against parents? Garland’s not knowing of this memo, if it’s part of this federal effort, seems unbelievable. Or, more likely, was he just professing ignorance of it so he wouldn’t have to answer questions before the Committee? “Is it not a high enough priority for you,” Hawley asked Garland, “when you’re threatening parents with 13 different federal crimes? These aren’t crimes of violence.” Garland insisted he hadn’t seen the memo and Hawley responded, “That’s what concerns me.”

Garland tried to deflect, saying their concerns were violence and threats of violence. But even if there were threats of violence, he hasn’t established why there should be federal involvement.  Where’s the predicate for the federal involvement here? That’s the trouble, even if there was violence — and he hasn’t even established that — why are the feds involved?

Hawley ripped into the demonizing of parents, bringing up Scott Smith’s case and how he was treated. Smith was the man who was arrested after objecting to the superintendent lying about the rape of Smith’s daughter.

“You have weaponized the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Hawley said. “Your US Attorneys are now collecting and cataloging all the ways that they might prosecute parents like Mr. Smith because they want to be involved in their children’s education and they want to have a say with their elected officials. It’s wrong and it’s unprecedented in the history of this country and I call on you to resign.”

Now that’s about as expert an evisceration as I think I’ve ever seen. But it opens up another whole range of questions about this new memo. It seems that they are specifically aiming to find crimes not just look into the issues as Garland tried to argue which makes this seem all the more political.