Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that Americans should “be afraid of your government” after Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the FBI would probe a purported spike in threats to local school officials amid protests over mask mandates and the addition of critical race theory to curricula.
“Moms at school boards are being told that they’re criminals, potential domestic terrorists, for the crime of dissent,” Paul told “Fox News Primetime,” “and I think criminalizing dissent is something that we should all be appalled with.”
When host Ben Domenech asked Paul what he would say to Americans who are worried that “if they go to their local school board and say the wrong thing, that they’re going to end up on some list that Merrick Garland goes after,” the senator answered in no uncertain terms.
“I would say be afraid. Be afraid of your government,” Paul said.
“That’s a sad thing from someone in the government to say, but the thing is, is those lists already exist. For example, people in northern Virginia that have gone to [protests], have been then sought out by the school council, by the members of the school board and retaliated [against] in a sort of legalistic way to try to put them on some sort of list and chill their speech by letting them know there’ll be a penalty for showing up and protesting.”
Garland’s Monday announcement followed a letter to President Biden from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), who claimed that “America’s public schools and its education leaders are under an immediate threat” and asked the White House to consider investigating threats against school administrators and staff using tools provided by a variety of legislation, including the 9/11-era Patriot Act.
“I think the problem is, it’s become so normalized to use government to search out and seek out your opponents,” said Paul, who cited the case of former Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Page’s communications were monitored by the FBI with the help of warrants issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as the bureau investigated claims that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.
“There are people I know on the left who should have stepped forward and should have said how wrong it is to use this foreign intelligence court – that uses a standard lower than the Constitution – to go after a political campaign,” Paul said. “Yet, the left — once it became about Trump, their hatred of Trump trumped everything else, and I have a feeling and a fear that the left has become more authoritarian than we can really even imagine.”
“Look, there are all kinds of laws about decorum, and there ought to be,” Paul said. “The idiot woman that goes in the bathroom, filming Senator [Kyrsten] Sinema [D-Ariz.] in a bathroom, that is illegal according to every local ordinance and you should punish that person.
“If you go to a school board meeting and you’re disruptive and you don’t obey the rules of the school board meeting, then there will be local punishment,” he added. “But that has nothing to do with the federal law, it has nothing to do with the Department of Justice. What Merrick Garland did is, he’s attempting to stifle dissent, and he’s attempting to say, ‘Beware or Big Brother’s coming after you if you speak out against my policies or against the Biden policies.’”
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the move by Garland “alarming” and “hypocritical.”
“It’s alarming because [of] this idea that somehow if parents show up at a school board to complain, if somebody there decides, ‘Well, we don’t like his tone of voice, we don’t like how loud he’s speaking, we don’t like how often he shows up,’ you can be reported,” he told Domenech.
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which should be focused on things like organized crime, things like drug traffickers, things like terrorism and others who seek to harm this country, is now going to divert resources to investigate parents because they scream too loudly, or maybe are even rude at a school board hearing?”
Rubio added that the DOJ’s action was hypocritical because “there are very few, if any senators – certainly people on the right, members of Congress as well – who have not been harassed in their private life … So they have normalized this behavior when it comes to left-wing protesters, but then when a parent speaks out about a school board, they want to sic the FBI on them. This is crazy.”