Rep. Jim Jordan subpoenas FBI, Education Department over school board memo

WASHINGTON – A key House Republican has subpoenaed the FBI and Education Department for documents dealing with alleged counterterrorism investigations of parents protesting at school board meetings, which federal authorities have disputed.

The subpoenas Friday from Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is head of the Judiciary subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government, went to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona for information stemming from a 2021 memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The subpoenas are part of wide-ranging investigations House Republicans have opened into the Biden administration.

Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, said Jordan "is rushing to fire off subpoenas" despite agencies responding in good faith to his requests.

"These subpoenas make crystal clear that extreme House Republicans have no interest in working together with the Biden Administration on behalf of the American people – and every interest in staging political stunts," Sams said.

Garland's memo directed the FBI to address "threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff" after some groups aired concerns regarding the safety of public schools.

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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Jan. 25.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Jan. 25.

But Jordan and other Republicans received whistleblower information that the FBI was using a specific "threat tag" to track potential investigations.

Jordan seeks FBI documents about opening investigations into parents who speak on behalf of their children at school board meetings. The subpoenas followed more than 100 letters Judiciary Committee Republicans sent to Biden administration officials asking about using counterterrorism resources against parents, according to the committee.

The committee set a March 1 deadline for the documents.

Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Jan. 27.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray on Jan. 27.

The FBI issued a statement that said it is actively working to respond to congressional requests for information with the voluntary production of documents.

The FBI said Wray and other officials have stated clearly on numerous occasions the agency "has never been in the business of investigating speech or policing speech at school board meetings or anywhere else, and we never will be."

"Our focus is and always will be on protecting people from violence and threats of violence," the FBI statement said. "We are fully committed to preserving and protecting First Amendment rights including the right to free speech. Attempts to further any political narrative will not change those facts."

Roy Loewenstein, an Education Department spokesman, said the department responded to Jordan's letter earlier this week.

"The Department remains committed to responding to the House Judiciary Committee’s requests in a manner consistent with longstanding Executive Branch policy," he said.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona

Garland and Wray and each testified at congressional hearings about the school board memo, disputing the Republican interpretation of the memo. Garland said he was concerned about violence and threats of violence, offering federal assistance to local authorities if necessary.

"We did not sic the FBI on parents," Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 27, 2021.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rep. Jim Jordan subpoenas FBI, Education Dept over school board memo