These Republican-led Committees Are as Much Interested – If Not Dominated – By a Desire To Embarrass
As with all unfolding public rituals, the press reported on the first subpoena from the House Republican investigative committee cluster – a demand for documents to the FBI and Justice responding to threats against school officials during covid.
Since it is all going to be aired at any number of continuing hearings meant to embarrass the Biden administration, we may as well get into what this one is all about – especially since there seems to be enough misplaced embarrassment here for the accusers, the accused and for us as voters who put this majority into office.
In pursuit of proof that Justice had targeted parents, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) sent subpoenas to Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to produce documents by March 1.
Of course, there was plenty of news coverage about this at the time, but the Republicans specifically want a memo sent by Garland in 2021 – and testimony about it – concerning a “spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence” against school officials. Garland and Wray say their memos were not about what parents had to say about closed schools, vaccines, and masks, but about protecting school board members receiving a spiraling number of violent threats.
Here’s the thing: The public and the various congressmen already have the memo and insist now on the emails and communication that would support an interpretation that defies its words. Law enforcement say they were trying to stop violence, not speech; Republicans see all such attempts at squashing their voices.
In the expected steps in this minuet, the feds will be pushing back about dates and scope of the subpoenas, and Jordan will threaten to go to court.
We will be hearing unceasingly about the failures of embracing congressional oversight launched this time by individuals who had refused other congressional subpoenas for Jan. 6 investigations.
Meanwhile, the National School Boards Association last week asked Joe Biden for federal assistance to review whether violence and threats against public school officials could be considered a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.
And Republican governors continued their various anti-school campaigns against certain books, courses, gender, and race identity issues while embracing the rise of parent populism to decide all matters of what happens in school.
The Key Memo
The five-paragraph Garland memo has been public since its issuance.
It says: “In recent months, there has been 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. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.”
The memo doesn’t call parents or anyone else domestic terrorists, as Fox News’ Laura Ingraham and Jordan repeated on air last week. Nowhere do the words “domestic terrorists” appear.
Nevertheless, that is the contention of Jordan’s recently launched subcommittee investigating the alleged “weaponization” of the federal government against conservatives, and repeated enough times by Republican candidates to make it a virtual plank in a not-existed party platform.
For the political Right, the memo means that Biden and company want to silence parents of students, and they intend to make the most of that fact by repeating it over and over in hearings they hope will be televised.
What Does it Mean?
Justice officials offered Jordan “staff-level meetings” to clarify whatever Jordan wants to clear up.
That we are moving immediately to formal subpoenas heralds that these Republican-led committees are as much interested – if not dominated – by a desire to embarrass as they are to resolve any policy questions.
The subpoenas should be read, then, as a sign of the deep distrust and resistance that marks our state of split government and divided politics. Congress does not control school boards or local curricular matters or even much about dampening threats of violence, which this majority party has chosen to support.
This hearing is not about facts, it is about taking sides – and setting up for the next election. The purpose of the hearings, therefore, is basically political and partisan.
Jordan’s committee already has conducted a voluntary transcribed interview with former FBI official Jill Sanborn as part of its broad investigation into the FBI and DOJ. According to The Washington Examiner, Republicans allege that Sanborn engaged in misconduct while former executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch by pushing for cases to be classified as domestic terrorism.
The confrontations between some groups of parents and local school boards that began over covid have now graduated into fuller forums for continuing shout-downs that have been noticed and built on by state politicians. The Virginia governor’s race last time was fueled by perceived parent unhappiness over schools that abided by covid closings for too long, for example, and in Florida, the governor has simply been replacing school board members who disagree with his personal policies about what books and courses are appropriate in classrooms.
Donald Trump, whose administration sought to widen private school tuitions with taxpayer money, launched one of those social media bombs that suggested we elect school principals. “More than anyone else, parents know what their children need,” Trump said. “If any principal is not getting the job done, the parents should be able to vote to fire them and select someone who will. This will be the ultimate form of local control.”
Perhaps things would be easier if Jordan’s committee members would read the memos they are demanding.