AG Garland Calls Accusations of Anti-Catholic Bias ‘Outrageous’ in Heated Exchange with GOP Lawmaker

Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared visibly angered when questioned during the Department of Justice (DOJ) Oversight Hearing on Wednesday about whether or not his agency is biased against traditional Catholics.

During the hearing, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-NJ) had a heated exchange with Garland after calling out the DOJ and FBI for a string of scandals, including an internal FBI memo that leaked earlier this year. In the memo, the FBI described certain traditional Catholics it was tying to violent extremism as those who prefer Latin mass, have a “disdain” for most modern-day popes, and have a “frequent adherence to anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ, and white supremacist ideology.”

The memo also suggested that violent extremists’ “interest” in “radical-traditionalist Catholic” ideology was growing and that it therefore presented an opportunity for the FBI to engage with certain churches in an attempt to goad the churches’ leadership into serving as FBI “tripwires,” who would operate like unofficial informants to the FBI.

“Never in my life would I have thought that I would see such a politicized DOJ. Never in my life would I have thought I would see such a Department of Justice that didn’t obey their own rules. Never in my life did I think I would see the egregious investigations conducted under your watch or the blatant disregard of the First Amendment by FBI field offices under your watch,” Van Drew told Garland. “And never in my life did I think I would see our great DOJ turn into a politicized weapon to be wielded by an investigation to attack political rivals. I still hold the thousands of hardworking staff with high regard, but unfortunately there are some within the department in my mind who have betrayed their oaths.”

“And for that you must be held accountable,” he continued. “I hold you accountable for the labeling of parents as domestic terrorists standing up for the proper education of their own children. I hold you accountable for the anti-Catholic memo. Imagine sending agents undercover into Roman Catholic churches because they were supposedly domestic terrorists.”

“Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists, yes or no?” Van Drew subsequently pressed.

“I would be happy to answer all of those,” Garland began before Van Drew cut him off. 

“Attorney General, I control the time. I’m going to ask you to answer the questions I ask,” Van Drew said.

“You control time by asking me a substantial number of things?” Garland said in an agitated manner.

“Attorney General, though the chair, I ask you: Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists?” Van Drew repeated.

“I have no idea what ‘traditional’ means here,” Garland said before becoming visibly angry. “The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous – so absurd that you would ask me that question.”

Garland has previously stated that that his family members were victims of religious persecution in Europe, and two of his grandmother’s siblings were murdered in the Holocaust.

“It was your FBI that did this. It was your FBI that was sending – and we have the memos, we have the emails – undercover agents into Catholic churches,” Van Drew continued.

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a hearing of the House Committee on the Judiciary oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, September 20, 2023. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty)

“Both I and the director of the FBI have said that we were appalled by that memo,” Garland replied.

Garland and Van Drew then proceeded to speak over each other, with Van Drew repeatedly asking, “Are they extremists or not, attorney general?”

“Catholics are not extremists, no,” Garland finally relented. 

Van Drew also asked Garland whether anyone was fired for drafting or circulating the anti-Catholic memo.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Garland said.

In August, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) announced that it appears multiple FBI field offices were involved in crafting the memo that detailed plans to target “radical traditionalist” Catholics, despite FBI Director Christoper Wray’s testimony that it was a “product from a single field office.”

“From information recently produced to the Committee, we now know that the FBI relied on information from around the country—including a liaison contact in the FBI’s Portland Field Office and reporting from the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office—to develop its assessment,” Jordan and House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government chairman Mike Johnson (R-LA) said in a letter to Wray.

“This revelation raises the question of why you redacted this information in previous versions of the document you produced to the Committee,” the letter states. It also charges that the new information “raises concerns about the accuracy, completeness, and truthfulness” of the director’s testimony and invites him to “amend” it “to fully explain the nature and scope of the FBI’s assessment of traditional Catholics as potential domestic terrorists.” 

Katherine Hamilton is a political reporter for Breitbart News. You can follow her on X @thekat_hamilton.


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