WATCH: Josh Hawley slams Biden's Deputy AG over the FBI's targeting of concerned and angry parents

"If this isn't a deliberate attempt to chill parents from showing up at school board meetings for their elected school board, I don't know what is," said Senator Josh Hawley.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

On Tuesday, the day following Attorney General Merrick Garland's announcement that the Department of Justice would me mobilizing the FBI to investigate threats against school board members by concerned parents, Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco was grilled by Senator Josh Hawley regarding the proposed actions.

The exchange occurred during Monaco's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.

"Let me ask you this: is parents waiting sometimes for hours to speak at a local school board meeting to express concerns about critical race theory or the masking of their students, particularly young children, is that, in and of itself, is that harassment and intimidation?" asked Hawley.

"Is waiting to express one's view at a school board meeting harassment and intimidation?" Hawley continued.

"As the attorney generals' memorandum made quite clear, spirited debate is welcome, is a hallmark of this country, its something we all should engage in..." said Monaco.

"I don't think so Miss Monaco, with all due respect, it didn't make it quite clear," Hawley interjected. "It doesn't define those terms, nor does it define harassment or intimidation. It talks about violence, I think we can agree that violence shouldn't be condoned, or looked aside from, in any way swept under the rug at all."

"But harassment and intimidation. What are those terms mean in the context of a local school board meeting?" Hawley asked. "I mean, this seems to be — the first amendment context. We talked about the chill, the chill to speech. If this isn't a deliberate attempt to chill parents from showing up at school board meetings for their elected school board, I don't know what is."

"I mean, I'm not, I'm not aware of anything like this in American history. We're talking about the FBI. You're using the FBI to intervene in school board meetings. That's extraordinary," he continued.

"Senator, I have to respectfully disagree. That is not..." said Monaco.

"Point me to an instance," Hawley demanded.

"The Attorney General's memorandum made quite clear that violence is not appropriate, spirited public debate on a whole range of issues is absolutely what this country is all about," said Monaco.

"Then why is it being investigated by the FBI?" Hawley asked.

"It is not," replied Monaco. "When and if any situation turns to violence, then that is the appropriate role of law enforcement to address it."

According to Garland, the move to mobilize the FBI against "threats and violence and acts of intimidation" was "to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend."

"Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values," Garland said as part of the announcement. "Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety."

The move by Garland was in response to a letter from the National School Board Association to President Joe Biden, who urged for a "joint expedited review by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Homeland Security, along with the appropriate training, coordination, investigations, and enforcement mechanisms from the FBI, including any technical assistance necessary from, and state and local coordination with, its National Security Branch and Counterterrorism Division, as well as any other federal agency with relevant jurisdictional authority and oversight."


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