HomePoliticsHouse G.O.P. Subpoenas Biden Officials for Investigating School-Related Threats

House G.O.P. Subpoenas Biden Officials for Investigating School-Related Threats

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Friday issued their first subpoenas of the Biden administration since taking control of the House, demanding documents for an investigation into whether the government mistreated parents who were scrutinized after school officials endured threats and harassment over mask mandates and teaching about racism.

Just two days after the Judiciary Committee was organized for the new Congress, Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and the panel’s chairman, sent subpoenas to Merrick B. Garland, the attorney general, F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray and Miguel A. Cardona, the secretary of education, accusing them of withholding information about whether the government overreached in scrutinizing parents.

It was a clear signal that leaders of the new Republican-controlled House, who have said they will investigate the “weaponization” of government against conservatives, are wasting little time in using their power to take aim at the Biden administration and plan to use their gavels to stoke culture wars over divisive issues.

Politically charged debates over coronavirus mandates and the teaching of the history of racism in the United States have become particularly bitter flash points in schools in recent years, opening school board members, educators and administrators to increasingly fearsome threats and harassment. Republicans contend that in investigating some of those incidents, the Justice Department has victimized and attempted to silence conservative parents.

“They all get investigated. F.B.I. shows up at their door. Guess how many have been charged? How many have been charged? Zero,” Mr. Jordan said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying the homes of 25 parents were visited. “They show up at your house. Now, you don’t think that has a chilling impact on other parents?”

Democrats dismissed the subpoenas as posturing driven by misinformation.

“The conspiracy theories underpinning today’s subpoenas have been debunked with facts time and time again, but Republicans do not want to be bothered by this inconvenient truth,” said Representative Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands, the top Democrat on the newly created Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

The subpoenas, reviewed by The New York Times, seek documents and communications related to the “alleged threats posed by concerned parents at local school board meetings” and Mr. Garland’s decision to deploy federal law enforcement officials around the country to investigate instances where there were threats and harassment of educators. They also request documents related to a 2021 letter sent by the National School Boards Association to President Biden raising concerns about rising threats against school board members over coronavirus restrictions and critical race theory, a legal framework primarily taught in graduate schools that examines racism as a social construct embedded in institutions.

The subpoenas require the documents to be produced by March 1.

Beginning in October of 2021, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, then in the minority, sent dozens of letters to the Biden administration demanding internal executive branch documents about the investigation of parents. But with Republicans lacking subpoena power, the Justice Department did not provide them.

The G.O.P. investigation began after the National School Boards Association wrote to Mr. Biden in September of 2021 about a “growing number of threats and acts of intimidation” against school board members over what the association called false propaganda stirred up by a misinformation campaign.

“The classification of these heinous crimes could be the equivalent of a form of domestic terrorism and hates crimes,” the association wrote.

Days later, Mr. Garland instructed the F.B.I. to meet with local officials to discuss “strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers and staff.”

In a report late last year, Mr. Jordan said whistle-blowers provided Republicans with evidence that the F.B.I. opened investigations “into one mom for allegedly telling a local school board ‘we are coming for you’ and a dad simply because he ‘rails against the government’ and ‘has a lot of guns.’”

Mr. Jordan’s subpoenas come after the Republican-controlled House voted along party lines to create the weaponization panel with the power to launch a wide-ranging investigation into federal law enforcement and national security agencies. Its first hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9.

In letters obtained by The Times that were sent to Mr. Jordan in recent weeks, both the Justice Department and the Education Department said officials there were willing to meet with House Republicans to discuss his requests.

Ian Sams, a White House spokesman, accused Mr. Jordan of “rushing to fire off subpoenas only two days after the Judiciary Committee organized, even though agencies already responded in good faith seeking to accommodate requests he made.”

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