Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) repeatedly grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland during a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday over allegations that the Biden Justice Department has been weaponized to go after political opponents.
A fiery Cruz pressed Garland over a memo that he sent to the FBI following a National School Boards Association letter that suggested that the actions of some parents frustrated with certain school policies could rise to the level of domestic terrorism. Cruz also pressed Garland over whether he sought an ethics opinion over a potential conflict-of-interest involving his son-in-law.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): For eight years under Barack Obama, the Department of Justice was politicized and weaponized. When you came before this committee in your confirmation hearing, you promised things would be different. I asked you specifically, quote, “Will you commit to this committee that under your leadership, the Department of Justice will not target the political opponents of this administration?” Here was your answer, quote, “absolutely. It’s totally inappropriate for the department to target any individual because of their politics or their position in a campaign.” That was your promise just a few months ago. I’m sorry to say you have broken that promise. There is a difference between law and politics. And General Garland, you know the difference between law and politics. Law is based on facts; it is impartial; it is not used as a tool of political retribution. This memo was not law. This memo was politics. On Wednesday, September 29, the National School Board Association wrote a letter to the president asking the president to use the Department of Justice to target parents that were upset at Critical Race Theory, that were upset at mask mandates in schools, to target them as domestic terrorists. On the face of the letter, the letter was in repeated consultation with the White House, in explicit political consultation with the White House, that was on Wednesday, September 29. Five days later, on Monday, so right after the weekend, boom, you pop out a memo giving them exactly what they want. Now, by the way, I understand that, in politics, that happens all the time. An important special interest wants something, sir, yes, sir. We’re going to listen to him. Let me ask you something, General Garland. In the letter, which you told the House of Representatives was the basis for this abusive memo targeting parents, how many incidents are cited in that memo?
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have to look back through the memo, I [inaudible]–
CRUZ: Okay, you don’t know. How many of them were violent?
GARLAND: Again, the general report–
CRUZ: How many of them were violent? Do you know?
GARLAND: I don’t know.
CRUZ: You don’t know. And there’s a reason you don’t know. Because you didn’t care and nobody in your office cared to find out. I did a quick count just sitting here during this hearing. I counted 20 incidents cited. Of the 20, 15 on their face are non-violent. They involve things like insults, they involve a Nazi salute. That’s one of the examples, “My God, a parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because he thought the policies were oppressive.” General Garland, is doing a Nazi salute at an elected official, is that protected by the First Amendment?
GARLAND: Yes, it is.
CRUZ: Okay. 15 of the 20, on the face of it, are not violent. They’re not threats of violence; they’re parents who are unhappy. Yet, miraculously, when you write a memo, the opening line of your memo, “In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence.” You know what? You didn’t look, and nobody on your on your staff looked. Did you even look up the 20 instances?
GARLAND: As I testified, the decision to make, to send the memo is for an assessment–
CRUZ: Did you look up the 20 instances?
GARLAND: I did not read–
CRUZ: Did anyone on your staff look them up?
GARLAND: I don’t know the answer, but it’s not–
CRUZ: But of course you don’t, and general, there’s a reason. Look, you started your career as a law clerk to Justice Brennan. You’ve had many law clerks during the year, during your time as a judge. I was a clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist. I’ll tell you what, if I drafted an opinion for the Chief Justice and walked in and it said, “There’s a disturbing pattern of violence.” Well, Ted, how do you know that? Well, I got an amicus brief here who claims it. You would fire a law clerk who did that. You’re the Attorney General of the United States. This was not a tweet you sent. This is a memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigation saying, go investigate parents as domestic terrorists.
GARLAND: That is not what the memo says at all.
CRUZ: Is it what the letter says?
GARLAND: That is not what–
CRUZ: Is it what the letter says?
GARLAND: I don’t care what the letter says–
CRUZ: You don’t care? You said it was the basis of your memo. You testified under oath before the House of Representatives, the letter was the basis of your memo. Now you don’t care about the letter?
GARLAND: The letter and public reports of violence and threats of violence, my memo says nothing about domestic terrorism, says nothing about parents committing any such things. My memo is an attempt to get an assessment of whether there is a problem out there that the federal government needs to–
CRUZ: The letter on its face says the actions of the parents could would be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism–
GARLAND: And that is wrong–
CRUZ: And asks the president to use the Patriot Act in regards to domestic terrorism, directed at parents. This was the basis of your memo–
GARLAND: My memo–
CRUZ: The Department of Justice, when you’re directing the FBI to engage in law enforcement, you’re not behaving as a political operative because a political ally of the president says, “Hey, go attack these parents because we don’t like what they’re saying.” Department of Justice, you did no independent research on what was happening, did you?
GARLAND: The memo has nothing to do with–
CRUZ: Did you do independent research?
GARLAND: The memo–
CRUZ: Did you do independent research?
GARLAND: The memo has nothing to do partisan politics.
CRUZ: So you’re not answering that question. You’ve testified you know nothing about the violent sexual assault that happened in Loudoun County, even though it’s one of the bases in this letter.
GARLAND: I read about it since then.
CRUZ: Okay. You told the House last week, you know nothing about it.
GARLAND: I did not know at the time.
CRUZ: Okay. This week, the court concluded that a 14-year-old girl was violently raped by a boy wearing a skirt in the girls restroom. The school district covered it up, released the boy, sent him to another school where he violently raped another girl. The father, who Mr. Hawley just showed you, was the father of the first girl. He was understandably — do you understand why a parent would be upset when your daughter is raped at school, the school board covers it up, and then lies to you, and claims there have been no assaults? “We have no instances of assaults in our bathroom,” and that was a flat out lie as the court concluded this week. Do you understand why the parent would be upset?
GARLAND: Absolutely. And any expressions of upset are completely protected by the First Amendment.
CRUZ: Except you just called him a domestic terrorist.
GARLAND: I never called him that, that’s not correct–
CRUZ: This letter calls him a domestic terrorist; you base the direction to the FBI, an official direction from the attorney general on this letter. And I’ll tell you what, the the NSBA is so embarrassed of this letter, they’ve apologized for it and retracted it, but you don’t apparently have the same willingness to apologize and retract what you did. Let me ask you something else. A big part of this letter is that they’re upset about parents not wanting Critical Race Theory taught. Your son-in-law makes a very substantial sum of money from a company involved in the teaching of Critical Race Theory. Did you seek and receive a decision from an ethics adviser at the Department of Justice before you carried out an action that would have a predictable financial benefit to your son-in-law?
GARLAND: This memorandum is aimed at violence and threats of violence–
CRUZ: I just asked a question, did you seek an–
GARLAND: –it has no predictable [inaudible]
CRUZ: –did you seek an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: It has no predict–
CRUZ: Did you seek an ethics opinion? Judge, you know how to ask questions and answer them. Did you seek an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: You asked me whether I sought an ethics opinion about something that would have a predictable effect on something. This has no predictable effect in the way that you’re talking about.
CRUZ: So, if Critical Race Theory is taught in more schools, does your son-in-law make more money?
GARLAND: This memo has nothing–
CRUZ: If Critical Race Theory is taught in more schools, does your son-in-law make more money? Yes or no?
GARLAND: This memorandum has nothing to do with Critical Race Theory or any other kind of curriculum–
CRUZ: Will you answer if you sought an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: I am answering the best I can.
CRUZ: Yes or no? Did you seek an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: This memorandum has nothing–
CRUZ: Did you seek an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: This memorandum has nothing to do with Critical Race Theory–
CRUZ: General, are you refusing to answer if you sought an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: I’m telling you that there is no possible conflict–
CRUZ: So, you’re saying no? Just answer it directly. You know how to answer a question directly. Did you seek an ethics opinion?
GARLAND: I’m telling you that if I thought there was any reason to believe there was a conflict of interest, I would do that. But I cannot imagine a conflict of interest here.
CRUZ: Why do you refuse to answer the question? Why won’t you just say no.
GARLAND: I’m sorry.
CRUZ: You’re not going to answer the question?
GARLAND: I’m sorry, ask the question again.
CRUZ: Did you seek an ethics opinion.
GARLAND: I’m saying again, I would seek an ethics opinion [inaudible]–
CRUZ: So, no, is the answer, correct?
GARLAND: –thought there was a conflict of interest.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), CHAIRMAN OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Senator, your time is up.
CRUZ: Let the record reflect the attorney general refuses to answer whether he sought an ethics opinion, and apparently ethics are not a terribly high priority in the Biden Justice Department.
GARLAND: I don’t think that’s a fair reflection of what I said.
CRUZ: Then answer the question.
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