Missouri GOP Senator Josh Hawley grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland about the September 2022 arrest of pro-life activist Mark Houck by roughly 20 armed FBI agents at his Pennsylvania home in front of his children and wife.
The Department of Justice is targeting Houck, who leads a nonprofit group that provides sidewalk counseling at abortion clinics in Philadelphia, over a 2021 incident involving his then-12-year-old son at a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. The family says Houck, who is now facing 11 years behind bars and fines up to $350,000, was defending his son from a harassing pro-abortion activist.
“What in the world would possess the Department of Justice to send 20 or so heavily armed agents to this family’s home, violate the sanctity of that home, frighten the children and then drag their father away instead of allowing us to present him peacefully, which we had offered to do?” said one of Houck’s attorneys, Peter Breen.
“Why did the Justice Department do this?” Hawley fired at Garland. “Why did you send 20 to 30 SWAT-style agents and a SWAT-style team to this guy’s house when everybody else had declined to prosecute and he had offered to turn himself in?”
“Let’s take a look at these hardened criminals that your Justice Department sent these armed agents to go terrorize on that morning,” Hawley continued later, showing a picture of the Houck family. “Here they are; here they are at Mass. Here’s the seven children with Mr. Houck and his wife in this early morning. They were all at home. Mrs. Houck has said repeatedly the children were screaming; they feared for their lives.”
“What’s really interesting to me is this seems to directly contradict your own memorandum about the use of force at the Justice Department,” Hawley charged. “You say, ‘Officers may use only the force that is objectively reasonable to effectively control an incident.’ Are you telling me that in your opinion as attorney general, it was objectively necessary to use 20 or 30 SWAT-style agents with long guns and ballistic shields for these people?”
“What I’m saying is that decisions about how to go about this were made on the ground by FBI agents,” Garland deflected.
“So you’re saying you don’t know?” Hawley snapped.
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“I’m saying what I just said —” Garland replied, as Hawley interjected, “Which is that you’re abdicating responsibility?”
“I’m not abdicating responsibility,” Garland declared.
“Then give me the answer,” Hawley demanded. “Do you think, in your opinion — you’re the Attorney General of the United States — you are in charge of the Justice Department, and yes, sir, you are responsible. So give me an answer.”
“The FBI does not agree with your description,” Garland deflected again.
“I’m not asking about the FBI,” Haley said heatedly. “You are the attorney general. Give me your answer. Do you think it was objectively reasonable, and they followed your guidelines, in sending 20 to 30 armed agents to terrorize these people: yes or no?”
“The facts I have, which are those presented by the FBI, are not consistent with your description,” Garland retorted.
“So you think it was reasonable,” Hawley concluded.
“I’m saying the facts are not as you describe,” Garland said.
“What, that the children weren’t there? That there weren’t long guns there? That there weren’t agents? What do you dispute? What’s the factual premise that you dispute?” Hawley pressed.
“The FBI said they don’t agree with your description of —” Garland stated.
“Be specific,” Hawley demanded. “They don’t agree with what?”
“Of how many agents … were there and what their roles were. They don’t agree,” Garland claimed.
“Apparently on your watch, this Justice Department is targeting Catholics, targeting people of faith specifically for their faith views. And Mr. Attorney General, I’ll just say to you: It’s a disgrace,” Hawley declared.
Senator Josh Hawley takes AG Garland to task on the FBI arrest of pro-life advocate Mark Houck at his home in front of his family.
"Are you telling me that in your opinion as Attorney General, it was objectively necessary to use 20 or 30 SWAT-style agents with long guns and… https://t.co/1sNEy9PjWV pic.twitter.com/WfNFyu1bAb
— Live Action News (@LiveActionNews) March 1, 2023
Amanda Prestigiacomo contributed to this article.
Related: ‘Political Prosecution’: Pro-Life Activist Mark Houck Fights Back, Pleads Not Guilty To Federal Charges After Controversial Arrest