Missouri AG blasts DOJ directive as 'unconstitutional expansion' of federal power as criticism mounts
Sen. Josh Hawley grills DOJ official on memo targeting threats, school board members
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco appears before Senate Judiciary Committee
FIRST ON FOX: The Missouri attorney general blasted Attorney General Merrick Garland’s new Department of Justice (DOJ) directive to protect school boards from alleged threats and "intimidation" as an "unconstitutional expansion" of federal power, as criticism continues to mount.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent Garland a letter exclusively obtained by Fox News on Tuesday blasting the memo directing DOJ, FBI and U.S. attorneys offices "to investigate and prosecute parents as domestic terrorists" as "outrageous" and "unconstitutional."
"First, the federal government does not have jurisdiction over school issues," Schmitt pointed out. "Your directive came just days after the National School Boards Association (NSBA) called on the Biden administration to investigate and prosecute parents as domestic terrorists."
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"Neither your directive nor the NSBA letter to the Biden Administration identifies any impact that parent comments to school bureaucrats could have on interstate commerce," Schmitt also wrote. "It is difficult to imagine any such connection."
Schmitt also pointed to the Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling on the Gun-Free School Zones Act as a counter to the school board association calling on the federal government to "specifically use" that act as well as the PATRIOT Act "‘in regards to domestic terrorism.’"
"Second, your directive appears to have a chilling effect on speech," the letter continues. "Your directive only makes a passing reference to the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment." "Characterizing differences of opinion as violence or threats of violence is a heavy-handed attempt to chill parents from continuing to advocate for their children," Schmitt added.
Additionally, Schmitt eviscerated the directive as "wildly inconsistent" and attempting "to muzzle and intimidate parents," and that the school board members are "directly accountable to the voters -- the parents -- they represent."
"But now that parents are opposing harmful decisions made by school boards, school boards want to treat parents as domestic terrorists," the Missouri attorney general continued. "That is wrong."
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On Monday, Garland directed the FBI and U.S. attorney's offices to hold meetings with federal, state and local law enforcement leaders in the next 30 days, during which they will discuss ways to combat what the DOJ called a "disturbing trend" of harassment and threats against school officials.
Critics say the move amounts to an attempt by the Biden administration to bully parents from exercising their First Amendment rights.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., also eviscerated Garland in a letter Tuesday, accusing the attorney general of using the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) "to intimidate and silence parents who are exercising their First Amendment rights."
DOJ spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle said in a statement to Fox News that the outrage against the mobilization of the FBI in response to the allegations was due to "misinformation" and that the DOJ’s move was not about "any particular ideology."
"There has been misinformation circulated that the Attorney General’s directive is an effort to silence those with particular views about COVID-related policies, school curricula, or other topics of public discussion," he said.
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"This is simply not true. As stated clearly in the Attorney General’s guidance to the FBI and United States Attorney’s Offices, the Department’s efforts are about rooting out criminal threats of violence, not about any particular ideology."
Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed reporting.
Houston Keene is a reporter for Fox News Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @HoustonKeene.