Attorney General Merrick Garland knocked down one right-wing conspiracy theory after another as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) questioned him during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

The Iowa Republican pressed the attorney general to explain a memo issued earlier this month explaining how the Justice Department would work with state and local authorities to investigate violent threats against school board officials, which Grassley compared to "something that will come out of some communist country."

"The memo is only about violence and threats of violence," Garland said. "It makes absolutely clear in the first paragraph that spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution. That includes debate by parents criticizing the school board. That is welcome, the Justice Department protects that kind of debate. The only thing we're concerned about, senator, is violence and threats of violence against school officials, school teachers, school staff, just like we're concerned about those kind of threats against senators, members of Congress, election officials, in all of those circumstances we are trying to prevent the violence that sometimes occurs after threats."

Garland explained that the FBI assessed reports of threats or violence against school board members, weighted against First Amendment protections, and made referrals where appropriate to state or local authorities, but he didn't know anything about Grassley's claims about school officials accessing the private data of parents who oppose the teaching of so-called critical race theory.

"I don't know about that," Garland said. "But the Justice Department certainly does not believe in anybody's personal information should be accessed in that way. If there is a federal offense involved or state or local offense involved, then, of course, those should be reported."

Merrick Garland knocks down GOP conspiracy theories one after another in Senate hearing