Republicans on House Judiciary panel focus on first White House target

With the House Judiciary Committee’s gavel and subpoena power close at hand, Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, is getting ready to launch his first investigations of the Biden administration, starting Friday with what he has recently referred to as the administration’s “anti-parent directives.” It’s the type of request from House Republicans that the White House is describing as politically motivated, as Republicans prepare to take control of the House.

In a letter obtained by CBS News, Jordan and Republicans on the panel made their first request for testimony and documents from the Biden White House since the GOP won control of the chamber. They wrote to White House chief of staff Ron Klain to ask White House officials to testify at the beginning of the next Congress, as part of a House GOP probe of what they say is the administration’s “misuse of federal criminal and counterterrorism resources to target concerned parents at school board meetings.”

House Judiciary Republicans want to know more about any actions the Biden administration took regarding an October 2021 memo from Attorney General Merrick Garland noting the “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff” and directing the FBI and U.S. attorneys to meet with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial leaders to address strategies for dealing with those threats.

The memo followed a September 2021 letter from the National School Boards Association asking the administration to investigate threats of violence against school board members that “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.”

Jordan and Republicans on the committee believe employees within the Executive Office of the President were involved in discussions surrounding that National School Boards Association letter and earlier this year requested documents and information about the White House’s “collusion with the NSBA.”

Republicans on the committee allege the administration is using law enforcement to “chill” parents’ First-Amendment rights, although the letter doesn’t call parents who protest school board meetings “domestic terrorists,” as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has claimed, as an Associated Press fact check noted.

“The American people … deserve much more accountability and transparency about the Biden administration’s anti-parent directives,” Jordan said in an Oct. 17 letter to Klain, asking the White House to preserve all records related to the matter.

Jordan’s Friday letter requested testimony from Mary C. Wall, the senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team; Julie C. Rodridguez, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Katherine Pantangco, policy adviser for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; and Nezly Silva, senior policy analyst for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

The request for testimony is voluntary — for now. But if the officials don’t agree to testify and provide records, in January, when Republicans control the House, “the committee may be forced to resort to compulsory process to obtain the material we require,” Friday’s letter says. Jordan’s efforts to obtain records related to the National School Boards Association letter and Justice Department memo have so far been unsuccessful.

The White House suggested congressional Republicans don’t have their priorities in the right place.

“Instead of working with President Biden to address issues important to the American people, like lower costs, congressional Republicans’ top priority is to go after President Biden with politically-motivated attacks chock full of long-debunked conspiracy theories,” said Ian Sams, spokesman for the White House Counsel’s office. “President Biden is not going to let these political attacks distract him from focusing on Americans’ priorities, and we hope congressional Republicans will join us in tackling them instead of wasting time and resources on political revenge.”

Jordan’s letter to the White House Friday is just the beginning of the array of probes the House is expected to undertake once the 118th Congress is seated and Republicans have control. Jordan’s committee and Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee also plan to investigate Hunter Biden and the president himself. Jordan has sent the White House letters requesting testimony and information on a number of topics since Mr. Biden took office, despite Republicans’ current lack of subpoena authority.

It remains to be seen exactly how many seats Republicans will have in the 118th Congress, although CBS News has projected the GOP will have between 218-223 seats. To control the lower chamber, they need 218. A handful of races remain to be decided.

Not all Republicans believe a focus on multiple investigations into the Biden administration and Hunter Biden is the way to go. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, of Utah, appeared to encourage the party to avoid such types of hearings, and instead, focus on things like inflation, the debt, spending, and entitlement and immigration reform.

“Two roads diverge before this potential GOP majority,” Romney wrote last week. “The one ‘less traveled by’ would be to pass bills that would make things better for the American people. The more tempting and historically more frequented road would be to pursue pointless investigations, messaging bills, threats and government shutdowns.”

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