Attorney General Merrick Garland punted when asked if Gov. Ron DeSantis had cooperated with his office.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch inquired during a House committee hearing with Garland. The South Florida Democrat set up the question with narratives of threats targeted toward School Board members, asking if DeSantis had been “cooperative” with the Attorney General’s office.
Desantis, Deutch noted, has claimed that Garland “weaponized” the Department of Justice against parents who are opposed to mask mandates in schools.
The Governor has fumed since Garland announced earlier this month that he was considering using the Department of Justice and FBI to protect school board members from threats of violence.
“Attorney General Garland is weaponizing the DOJ by using the FBI to pursue concerned parents and silence them through intimidation,” the Republican Governor tweeted in the wake of the Garland memo. “Florida will defend the free speech rights of its citizens and will not allow federal agents to squelch dissent.”
Despite the fiery rhetoric, Garland seemed puzzled by the question and redirected the response to larger issues.
“I don’t know the answer to the question that you’re asking,” Garland said. “We are trying to prevent violence and threats of violence. It is not only about schools. We have similar concerns with respect to elections workers, with respect to hate crime, with respect to judges and police officers. This is a rising problem in the United States, threats of violence. And we are trying to prevent the violence from occurring.”
Garland’s DeSantis deflection comes after the Governor vowed to “fortify” parents’ rights this week by opposing any federal encroachments.
“We are going to be fortifying parents’ rights. I mean the Parents’ Bill of Rights (approved in the spring) was good, but I don’t think it was written with the idea that you would face intransigent officials to the extent that we would,” DeSantis said Wednesday in Titusville.
During those remarks, DeSantis noted that no federal inquiries about school board meetings had been issued and suggested Garland’s concern may have been bluster amounting to nothing.
“I think it was a big mistake. I think it was a big miscalculation. And hopefully they’ll decide to pursue areas that are a little more appropriate for federal intervention,” DeSantis said.