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Conservatives try (and fail) to sue over Garland’s school memo

Many conservatives don't realize they've been lied to about Merrick Garland's memo on violence against educators. The result was a misguided lawsuit.


Attorney General Merrick Garland was confronted last year with real-world evidence of educators being targeted as part of an intimidation campaign. It led him to write an unremarkable memo explaining the importance of preventing threats and potential violence.

Republican hysteria soon followed. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declared in April, “We’re going to investigate the attorney general. Why did he go after parents and call them ‘terrorists’ simply because they wanted to go to a school board meeting?”

The House GOP leader was brazenly lying. Garland did not “go after parents,” and he didn’t label them “terrorists.” McCarthy just made this up, though he was hardly alone: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also accused Garland of allowing the Justice Department “to spy on parents,” which never happened.

Last week, when House GOP leaders unveiled their “Commitment to America” blueprint, the support materials condemned Democrats for failing to hold hearings on “Biden’s Justice Department labeling parents as ‘domestic terrorists’” — despite the fact that this never happened.

At the rollout event, McCarthy said, “I’ll make this personal pledge: I don’t know if it happened, but any parent that got put on the terrorist watchlist by the DOJ, we’ll get you off it.”

Republican officials know they’re lying, but they nevertheless created a new reality for their base. As we discussed in April, there are some beliefs that many rank-and-file Republicans embrace with great enthusiasm, long after they’ve been discredited. They just know, for example, that Donald Trump created the greatest economy in generations (he didn’t). They know that the Russia scandal was debunked (it wasn’t). They know that the Obama-era IRS scandal exposed meaningful wrongdoing (it didn’t).

And they know that Garland and the Biden administration’s Justice Department targeted conservative parents who go to school board meetings, reality notwithstanding.

The trouble, of course, is that regular ol’ GOP voters don’t know they’ve been lied to, so they sometimes end up filing pointless lawsuits. CNN reported over the weekend:

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Friday from parents that accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of stifling their free speech, saying the group misunderstood a memo addressing increased harassment against schools. In 2021, Garland released a memo addressing the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence” levied at schools. ... In an attempt to stop the Justice Department from enforcing the memo, a group of parents from Virginia and Washington sued Garland, claiming the memo tried to silence parents who were lawfully protesting the “harmful, immoral, and racist policies of the ‘progressive’ Left” at their local schools.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich — who happens to be a Trump appointee — patiently explained while throwing out the case that Garland’s memo barely says anything and there is no meaningful policy to block.

“The alleged AG Policy is not regulatory, proscriptive, or compulsory in nature because it does not impose any regulations, requirements, or enforcement actions on individuals,” Friedrich wrote. “None of the documents that the plaintiffs allege establish the policy create an imminent threat of future legal actions against anyone, much less the plaintiffs.”

The judge also noted that the memo only addressed potential threats of violence, and Garland explicitly stated that parents have the right to “spirited debate about policy matters.”

Friedrich added that Garland’s memo “does not label anyone a domestic terrorist, as the plaintiffs suggest.”

In theory, this should put this nonsense to rest. In practice, I’d put the odds of Republicans continuing to push this line of attack anyway at roughly 100%.