WASHINGTON (AP) — House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, issued subpoenas to the heads of the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Department of Education on Friday, requesting documents related to local school board meetings.
The subpoenas, which Jordan noted are his first as chairman, require Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to turn over all relevant documents by March 1.
“Since October 2021, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee have sent over a hundred letters to Biden Administration officials requesting answers about how the Administration used federal counterterrorism resources against American parents,” Jordan’s office stated on Friday.
Whistleblowers have claimed that the FBI’s counterterrorism and criminal divisions “created a specific threat tag for school board-related threats and even opened investigations into parents simply for speaking out on behalf of their children,” according to Jordan, who also chairs a new subcommittee on the “Weaponization of the Federal Government.” Republicans made similar claims in a November report on the “politicisation” of the Justice Department and FBI.
School board meetings across the country have become increasingly heated and violent in recent years, particularly since the Covid pandemic began. In October, a man was caught on video saying that LGBTQ people “deserve death” at an Arkansas school board meeting where several anti-LGBTQ policies were passed. A Virginia woman was charged in January 2022 after she appeared to threaten school board officials during a meeting to vote on whether to lift a mask requirement.
Garland established a task force in October 2021 to address the increased threats, citing 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” in a memorandum.
The subpoena issued to Garland requests documents and communications between DOJ employees and U.S. intelligence agencies, for example, “referring or relating to alleged threats posed by concerned parents at local school board meetings.” It also requests that he turn over documents related to the formation of the DOJ task force to address violent threats against school officials and teachers.
Wray’s subpoena requests documents related to task force meetings with US Attorney’s offices, as well as documents and communications related to the threat tag.
Cardona was asked to provide documents related to a letter sent by the National School Board Association to President Joe Biden in September 2021, requesting assistance in keeping school board meetings safe.
“As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, these heinous actions may be classified as domestic terrorism and hate crimes,” the letter said.
“As Director Wray and other FBI officials have stated clearly on numerous occasions before Congress and elsewhere, the FBI has never been in the business of investigating or policing speech at school board meetings or anywhere else, and we never will be,” an FBI spokesperson said in response to Jordan’s subpoenas.”
“We are steadfast in our commitment to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights, including the right to free expression. Attempts to advance any political narrative will not change those facts,” the FBI spokesperson said, adding that the bureau “is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information, including voluntary production of documents.”
The Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the subpoena but declined to comment further.
According to a spokesperson for the Education Department, the department “responded to Chairman Jordan’s letter earlier this week,” before the subpoena was issued, and it “remains committed to responding to the House Judiciary Committee’s requests in a manner consistent with longstanding Executive Branch policy.”
Stacey Plaskett, a non-voting delegate from the US Virgin Islands who serves as the top Democrat on Jordan’s weaponization panel, slammed Jordan and Republicans in a statement issued in response to the subpoenas on Friday.
“The conspiracy theories that underpin today’s subpoenas have been repeatedly debunked with facts, but Republicans do not want to be bothered by this inconvenient truth. There are no documents that will satisfy MAGA’s obsession with conspiracies “She stated. “While I am disappointed that Republicans have resorted to this type of aggressive arm-twisting and performative politics, I am confident that what they have requested will disprove this tired right-wing theory once again.”