Sen. Tom Cotton called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to “resign in disgrace” during a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.
“This testimony, this directive, this performance, is shameful. Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, Judge,” Cotton said during the hearing, which featured Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin comparing concerned parents to the Jan. 6 rioters.
Cotton questioned Garland about his Oct. 4 memo, which followed a Sept. 29 letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to President Joe Biden asking for federal intervention, leading off by asking the attorney general about the “outrageous directive siccing the feds on parents at school boards across America.” Garland was also asked if he had consulted with FBI leadership and whether objections had been raised to the directive.
The Oct. 4 memo sparked a backlash that saw a number of state school board associations repudiate the letter, with some ending their membership in the NSBA.
The Republican senator from Arkansas later grilled Garland over a three-page letter he claimed was sent by a U.S. attorney to local prosecutors, school boards and sheriffs. When Garland mentioned the memo in response, Cotton replied, “Judge, we’ve all read your memorandum. We’ve also heard you dissemble about your memorandum. I have, and the record now shows, one of your U.S. attorneys sending out a letter about federal prosecution investigations and list in detail the federal statutes for which you could be prosecuted.”
Cotton also brought up the incident when Arizona Sen Kyrsten Sinema was harassed in a bathroom, questioning if Garland had opened an investigation into that incident since it involved a federal official.
“I don’t know whether the Senator has referred this matter to the Justice Department or not,” Garland replied.
“Okay, so you keep citing the school board letter and news reports. ‘News reports.’ One of the news reports cited in that letter which you presumably mean is from Loudoun County, Virginia,” Cotton said. “Well 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. ”
Cotton discussed the alleged cover-up of the sexual assault and what he described as the “international condemnation” of Smith. A Loudoun County judge found the student accused of assaulting Smith’s daughter guilty Tuesday.
Garland defended the Oct. 4 memo, despite the NSBA apologizing for the Sept. 29 letter. A parents group disputed his claims that the memo did not target parents.
“Over the past three weeks, we’ve heard from a number of people across the country who WERE frightened by the DOJ memo – and who WERE chilled from lawfully participating in school issues – because they feared a knock at the door by the FBI. AG Garland’s dismissal of these concerns is callous and condescending,” Parents Defending Education said in a statement released after the hearing.
“Furthermore, AG Garland’s repeated refusal to rescind the DOJ’s memo, in light of the National School Boards Association’s expression of regret and apology for their letter, is disturbing,” the group went on to say.
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