White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed Wednesday to explain why the Biden administration has primed the FBI to go after parents protesting at local school board meetings after shrugging off public harassment of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) over the weekend.
During Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy asked Psaki whether the Biden administration believed “that parents upset about their kids’ curriculums could be considered domestic terrorists?” following Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing that FBI would lead the response to what he called “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
That followed a letter to President Biden last week from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), who claimed that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat,” as parents fight back against mask mandates being imposed on their children and critical race theory being injected into their curricula.
The NSBA letter further suggested that “[a]s these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”
Psaki initially answered Doocy by snarking that “the National School Boards Association is not a part of the government” and reiterating that “regardless of the reasoning, threats and violence against public servants are illegal. That’s what he [Garland] was conveying.”
Doocy then noted that the NSBA letter had asked the Biden administration to consider investigating threats against school administrators and staff using tools provided by a variety of legislation, including the 9/11-era Patriot Act.
“Would the administration be OK with the FBI using the Patriot Act to surveil these parents if that’s what they decide?” he asked.
“I don’t speak on behalf of the National School Boards Association,” Psaki snarked again. “I speak on behalf of this government. The attorney general has put out a letter. They will take actions they take and I would point you to them for more information.”
Doocy then referenced the president’s remarks on Monday after pro-immigration protesters disrupted a class at Arizona State University where Sinema was lecturing, then chased her into a bathroom stall while haranguing the lawmaker over her opposition to a proposed $3.5 trillion social spending bill.
“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics but it happens to everybody,” President Biden reacted to the incident Monday. “The only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around. So it’s part of the process.”
On the same day, Psaki said the administration “stands for the fundamental right of people to protest, to object, to criticize, as they often do outside of the gates of the White House,” but declined to specifically declined to condemn Sinema being hounded into the bathroom.
“Does the president support the fundamental right of parents to protest at school board meetings?” Doocy asked.
“Of course, but he doesn’t stand for the fundamental right — I assume you don’t, either — for people to take violent action against members of — public servants,” Psaki answered. “And that’s what the threats are about. And so, no, he doesn’t stand for that. No one should.”
Garland’s memo ordered the FBI and US attorneys to arrange meetings with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders within 30 days to “facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats” and “open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.”
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