Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) blistered Attorney General Merrick Garland, telling the Biden administration cabinet official he should “resign in disgrace” for directing the FBI to investigate and potentially crack down on “parents at school board meetings.”
Cotton questioned Garland over the October 4 memo during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. Cotton pushed the attorney general over the basis for the memo, which Garland has justified by pointing to “news reports” and a September letter from the National School Boards Association.
“You keep citing news reports and that’s the most prominent news report that anyone in America has seen. That refers to Scott Smith, whose 15-year-old daughter was raped. She was raped in a bathroom by a boy wearing girl’s clothes and the Loudoun County school board covered it up because it would’ve interfered with their transgender policy during Pride Month,” Cotton said toward the end of his roughly 8-minute long round of questioning.
“And that man, Scott Smith, because he went to a school board and tried to defend his daughter’s rights, was condemned internationally. Do you apologize to Scott Smith and his 15-year-old daughter, judge?” Cotton asked.
Garland responded: “Senator, anyone whose child was raped – the most horrific crime I can imagine – is certainly entitled and protected by the First Amendment to protest to their school board about this.” Garland repeatedly denied that the “news reports” that served as the basis for the October 4 memo were not the same news reports referenced in the NSBA letter, despite also referring to the letter to justify the directive to the FBI.
“But he was cited by the school board association as a domestic terrorist which we now know that letter and those reports were the basis for your directive,” Cotton pressed, though the letter uses Smith as just one example of individual behavior that could give rise to actions resembling “domestic terrorism” or “hate crimes.”
Garland denied Cotton again: “No, senator. That’s wrong.”
“This is shameful. Judge, this is shameful,” Cotton said, ending his period of questioning. “This testimony, your directive, your performance is shameful. Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, judge.”
Garland was then given time to have the last word in the exchange. Garland said:
I wasn’t sure if there was a question there, but let me be clear. The news reports I was talking about are not the news reports in that letter. They were other news reports that everybody here has heard about, subsequent reports that everybody has heard about. There is nothing in this memorandum, and I wish if senators are concerned about this, they would quote my words. This memorandum is not about parents being able to object in their school boards. They are protected by the First Amendment. As long as there are no threats of violence, they are completely protected. So parents can object to school boards about curriculum, about the treatment of their children, about school policies, all of that is 100 percent protected by the First Amendment, and there is nothing in this memorandum contrary to that. We are only trying to prevent violence against school officials.
Complete exchange between @SenTomCotton and Attorney Merrick General Garland on school board memo.
Cotton concludes: "Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, Judge." pic.twitter.com/PunUjPUwte
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 27, 2021