The memo, Garland said, “responds to concerns about violence, threats of violence, other criminal conduct.”
“That’s all it’s about, and all it asks, is for federal law enforcement to consult with, meet with local law enforcement to assess the circumstances, strategize about what may or may not be necessary to provide federal assistance, if it is necessary,” Garland said in response to a question from GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley.
“The letter that we that was subsequently sent does not change the association’s concern about violence with threats of violence,” Garland said Wednesday. “It alters some of the language in the letter language in the letter that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum. The only thing that Justice Department is concerned about violence and threats of violence.”
The school board memo is one of several topics Garland is expected to be grilled on at Wednesday’s hearing.
“I commend the many agents and prosecutors who were working day in and day out to bring these violent insurrectionists to justice,” Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said at the hearing Wednesday. “I hope the department will be just as steadfast in pursuit of those who encouraged and incited the attack and those who would prevent the American people and their representatives from uncovering the truth.”
“The investigation is being conducted by the prosecutors in the US Attorney’s Office and by the FBI field office. We have not constrained them in any way,” Garland said,
Republicans have equated the Justice Department’s approach with treating parents like “domestic terrorists” for protesting schools’ Covid protocols and methods of teaching about race in American history. (The memo makes no reference to domestic terrorism.) Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican and a member of the Judiciary panel, has called on Garland to resign over the memo.
Grassley, in his opening statement, said, “The last thing the Justice Department and FBI need is a very vague memo to unleash their power — especially when they’ve shown zero interest in holding their own accountable.”
Garland, getting choked up, said Wednesday that the accounts of gymnasts abused by Nassar were “heart wrenching” and pointed to indications from Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco earlier this month that the department was reviewing the decision not to prosecute the two former officials.
“New evidence has come to light and that is cause for review of the matters that you’re discussing,” Garland said.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.