GOP’s Elise Stefanik gets a fact-check after using domestic terrorism hearing to lash out at Merrick Garland
Rep. Elise Stefanik (screengrab)

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) grilled assistant FBI director Timothy Langan on a Justice Department memo that Republicans claim unfairly targets parents, and she got a fact check.

The New York Republican asked Langan to denounce the memo signed by attorney general Merrick Garland, who faced numerous questions from GOP lawmakers in a hearing last month, but the assistant director explained that law enforcement was only interested in threats against school officials and not punishing parents for holding conservative viewpoints.

"I have a few yes-or-no questions," Stefanik said. "Has the FBI held any of these meetings directed by attorney general Garland, yes or no?"

Langan explained those meetings would have been led by U.S. Attorneys' offices, not the FBI, so he does not know any details about those gatherings.

"Does the FBI consider parents domestic terrorists?" Stefanik said.

Langan agreed the bureau did not, and he explained the FBI does not consider parents who oppose "critical race theory" lessons or mask mandates in schools to be domestic terrorists.

"As long as individuals are not committing federal violations, force or violence or the promotion of an ideology they would not be," he said.

Langan refused to say whether he thought the memo should be rescinded, saying that was up to the attorney general,

John Cohen, the top counterterrorism official in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, then spoke up to point out why the memo might have been issued.

"I would only add that in addition to the letter that was submitted there were actual calls for violence directed at teachers, school board administrators and others in the educational environment on extremist platforms," Cohen said. "We did reach out to state and local law enforcement. There have been some sporadic incidents of violence at school board meetings and in educational facilities, however the information we received is that state and local law enforcement were not seeing widespread action, so we're continuing to work with state and locals to maintain awareness of the environment if there are threats of violence directed at anybody, threats not just focused on school administrators in information we were analyzing, but also included threats against law enforcement and public health officials who were giving vaccines and involved in other public health-related activities. So it is just something we continue to evaluate."

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