U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland became visibly incensed as Republican New Jersey Rep. Jefferson Van Drew questioned whether he believes “traditional Catholics” are domestic terrorism threats.
A redacted memo published in late January from the Richmond FBI field office targeted Catholics who reject the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The memo described traditional Catholics as susceptible to “anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and white supremacist ideology.”
Van Drew told Garland he holds him accountable for the targeting not just of Catholics, but also of former President Donald Trump and of parents protesting at school board meetings.
“Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists? Yes or no?” Van Drew asked.
“Let me answer what you said in that long list of — I’d be happy to answer all of those,” Garland responded.
“Attorney General, I control the time, I’m gonna ask you to answer the questions I asked,” Van Drew pressed.
“You control time by asking a substantial number of things—” Garland began. (RELATED: ‘It’s Political Motivation’: Jim Jordan Confronts FBI Director On Targeting Traditional Catholics)
Van Drew interjected to repeat the question, causing Garland to become visibly angry.
“I have no idea what the traditional means here,” Garland said.
“Catholics,” Van Drew said.
“May I answer the question?” he asked.
“Yes or no?” the representative pressed.
“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous! So absurd!” Garland said with a raised voice. Garland is Jewish, and two of his grandmother’s siblings were killed in the Holocaust.
Garland also cited FBI Director Christopher Wray, who previously said the agency was “appalled” by the memo.
“So you agree that they’re not extremists?” Van Drew pressed.
“We were appalled by that memo—” Garland continued.
Van Drew then asked again whether traditional Catholics are extremists, to which Garland responded that Catholics are “not extremists” and said he is unaware of whether any official had been held accountable for sending the memo.