House Republicans said Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Biden administration “colluded” with the National School Boards Association in an effort aimed at “silencing the critics” of Democratic education policies ahead of the 2021 Virginia governor’s race.
A new interim report about Garland’s October 2021 school boards directive was released by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee and Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“The Administration’s goal seems to have been silencing the critics of its radical education policies and neutralizing an issue that was threatening Democrat Party prospects in the close gubernatorial race in Virginia,” the GOP concluded on Tuesday. The new report said “whistleblower disclosures” and a report commissioned by the NSBA “shed some light on how the Biden Administration colluded with the NSBA to create a justification to use federal law-enforcement and counterterrorism resources against parents.”
The GOP said Jordan subpoenaed the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Education Department in early February 2023 and that based on the initial document productions, “it is apparent that the Biden Administration misused federal law-enforcement and counterterrorism resources for political purposes.” The report said the DOJ’s own documents “demonstrate that there was no compelling nationwide law-enforcement justification” for Garland’s directive. The report added that after Jordan subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray, the bureau acknowledged it had opened 25 “Guardian assessments” of school board threats using an EDUOFFICIALS threat tag. The FBI determined that only one incident warranted opening a “Full Investigation” and that the majority of the remaining cases were referred to state and local authorities, with no federal prosecutions as of yet.
In a since-withdrawn NSBA letter in 2021, Garland was encouraged to direct the FBI and DOJ’s National Security Division to help police alleged threats against school board members. Republicans have argued the letter was the product of collusion between the Biden White House and the national school boards group.
Garland revealed in 2021 that the DOJ and the White House communicated about the September 2021 NSBA letter just before he issued his October 2021 memo. Emails from the NSBA showed it was in touch with the White House prior to publishing.
The Jordan-led report also said that the DOJ and the NSBA “coordinated prior to the release of” Garland’s directive. It states Alivia Roberts, from the DOJ’s Public Affairs Office, sent an email to NSBA’s interim director and CEO Chip Slaven on Oct. 4, 2021, and attached Garland’s memo before it was publicly released, writing: “It was a pleasure to speak with you today regarding the efforts the Department of Justice is taking to address threats against school board administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Slaven responded by writing, “[NSBA] stands ready to work with you on efforts going forward.”
Internal emails showed some NSBA board members objected to sending the letter to Biden, and the school boards group withdrew and apologized for the letter. Dozens of chapters left the NSBA in 2021 in protest of the seemingly politicized actions of the group’s leadership.
Garland doubled down on his memo during congressional testimony in 2021, arguing that NSBA’s follow-up apology “does not change the association’s concern about violence and threats of violence.”
While Garland’s memo did not mention DOJ’s National Security Division, the accompanying DOJ press release named it, along with the FBI, as part of the DOJ’s new task force.
“The FBI has never been in the business of investigating parents who speak out or policing speech at school board meetings, and we are not going to start now,” an FBI spokesperson told the Washington Examiner at the time.