Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., grilled Legal professional Basic Merrick Garland over the FBI raid on a pro-life Christian man and requested whether or not the Division of Justice (DOJ) had an “anti-Catholic bias.”
“Our division protects all religions, all ideologies. It doesn’t have any bias in opposition to any faith of any variety,” Garland mentioned, fielding the query from Hawley throughout Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee listening to.
Hawley then characterised the DOJ as an company fast to expend assets and intelligence to be deployed in opposition to Catholics whereas “turning a blind eye” as individuals are executed within the streets of American cities.
“Your reply frankly surprises me,” Hawley added.
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The Missouri senator then turned his consideration to the story of Mark Houck.
In September, FBI brokers arrested Houck in Kintnersville for allegedly violating the Freedom of Entry to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to make use of power with the intent to injure, intimidate and intervene with anybody as a result of that individual produces reproductive well being care.
The arrest stemmed from Houck’s alleged altercation with a Deliberate Parenthood escort in Philadelphia in October 2021. Houck was accused of pushing a 72-year-old man after the escort allegedly verbally harassed Houck’s 12-year-old son exterior the clinic.
Days after the arrest, Hawley despatched a letter to Garland, accused him of turning a “native dispute right into a nationwide case,” and criticized the FBI for executing the search warrant in “excessive a fashion as one can think about.”
In keeping with an FBI supply, the brokers who got here to Houck’s door had weapons out and on the prepared, however the weapons have been by no means pointed at Houck or his household and have been lowered or holstered as quickly as Houck was taken into custody.
“Why did the FBI do that?” Hawley requested Garland face-to-face through the Senate listening to. “Why did you ship 20-30 SWAT-style brokers, SWAT-style workforce to this man’s home when everyone else had declined to prosecute and he provided to show himself in?”
Garland mentioned FBI brokers on the bottom decided how you can interact with Houck within the “most secure” and easiest method, including that brokers disagreed with Hawley’s description of what occurred on the scene. A senior FBI supply beforehand instructed Fox Information that there could have been 15-20 brokers on the scene however denied 25 have been there.
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Hawley then requested if it was “objectively obligatory” based mostly on established protocol to ship brokers with lengthy weapons and ballistic shields to the house the place Houck’s spouse and kids have been on the time of the strategy.
Garland once more acknowledged the choice was made by FBI brokers on the bottom. When Hawley requested if he was “abdicating accountability,” Garland mentioned no.
“Then give me the reply. Do you assume, in your opinion, you’re the lawyer normal of the US. You might be in command of the Justice Division and sure, sir, you’re accountable. So give me a solution.”
The 2 went forwards and backwards for over a minute. Hawley repeatedly pushed for a solution from Garland on whether or not he thought the FBI raid was “affordable,” however Garland punted the query and merely urged the information weren’t as Hawley described.
“What that the kids weren’t there? That there weren’t lengthy weapons there? That there weren’t brokers? What do you dispute? What is the factual premise that you simply dispute?” Hawley mentioned, clearly flustered.
Garland lastly acknowledged that the FBI disputed Hawley’s description of what number of brokers have been on the scene and what their roles have been.
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“You used an unbelievable present of power with weapons that I simply be aware liberals often decry. We’re presupposed to hate lengthy weapons and assault-style weapons. You are completely happy to deploy them in opposition to Catholics and harmless youngsters. Blissful to,” Hawley later mentioned. “And then you definately haul them into courtroom and a jury acquits him in a single hour. I recommend to you that may be a disgraceful efficiency by your Justice Division and a disgraceful use of assets.”
Hawley then mentioned he “seen a sample” and referenced a Jan. 23 memorandum from the FBI discipline workplace in Richmond, Virginia, that advocated for “the exploration of latest avenues for tripwire and supply improvement in opposition to traditionalist Catholics.”
“Legal professional Basic, are you cultivating sources and spies in Latin mass parishes and different Catholic parishes throughout the nation?” Hawley requested.
“The Justice Division doesn’t do this and doesn’t do investigations based mostly on faith. I noticed the doc you despatched. It is appalling. It is appalling. I am in full settlement with you. I perceive that the FBI has withdrawn it and is trying into how this might ever have occurred,” Garland replied.
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Garland additionally referred to as the doc “inappropriate” and famous it didn’t replicate the strategies the FBI is meant to make use of. He added that brokers shouldn’t be counting on any single group with out doing its personal work.
When requested what number of informants the FBI has in Catholic church buildings throughout America, Garland mentioned, “I do not know, and I do not imagine we now have any informants geared toward Catholic church buildings. Now we have a rule in opposition to investigations based mostly on First Modification exercise.”
Later he mentioned, “I do not know particularly” what number of sources are embedded in Catholic church buildings.
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