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Garland should investigate attacks on anti-abortion groups as domestic terrorism: GOP

Washington Examiner: Jerry Dunleavy

More than 100 House Republicans are calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the rash of attacks and vandalism targeting anti-abortion groups as acts of domestic terrorism.

The letter was signed by at least 124 House Republicans and was co-authored by Reps. Scott Franklin (R-FL), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), and Mike Johnson (R-LA).

“We write to express serious concerns over recent attacks targeting religious organizations and crisis pregnancy centers and request the Department of Justice respond with how its National Security Division plans to investigate these acts of domestic terrorism,” the Republicans said. “Since the draft Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health U.S. Supreme Court opinion was leaked on May 2, 2022, U.S. Supreme Court Justices and pro-life advocates have experienced heightened threats and violence.”

The DOJ unveiled a new domestic terrorism unit in January during a hearing on the Capitol riot , and the FBI has said it considers the riot domestic terrorism.

The Republicans pointed to 18 U.S. Code § 2331, which defines domestic terrorism as activities that “involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws” that are intended to “influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion” or through threats of violence.

The House members argued the DOJ “has a clear duty to pursue these recent attacks as instances of domestic terrorism, and it is the responsibility of the National Security Division to protect the United States from threats to our national security by seeking justice through law.”

The letter argued that “terrorists have targeted numerous pro-life crisis pregnancy centers — two of which culminated in the firebombing and destruction of property by the terrorist group Jane’s Revenge" in Buffalo, New York , and Madison, Wisconsin.

The Republicans noted that during the Madison attack, the words “if abortions aren’t safe, then neither are you” were spray-painted on the building’s facade. CompassCare, the group targeted in Buffalo, described the effort against it as “abortion terrorism,” according to RealClearInvestigations. Planned Parenthood told the outlet that “we condemn violence and hatred in all forms."

A Washington Examiner review identified recent incidents of arson or vandalism at least 16 anti-abortion centers across the country. The advocacy group Catholic Vote says more than 20 pregnancy resource centers and offices of anti-abortion groups have been targeted.

The GOP letter also listed 11 incidents from May and two in June. These incidents involved one in Colorado, two in Maryland, two in Texas, one in Wisconsin, one in Oregon, two in Virginia, two in Washington state, one in North Carolina, and one in Washington, D.C. (where the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center was vandalized). The targets were churches, pregnancy centers, and anti-abortion offices.

The Republicans posed two questions they wanted the DOJ to respond to: “Is the Department currently investigating the attacks against the aforementioned groups as instances of domestic terrorism? ... What is the Department’s plan to prevent similar attacks from occurring against other pro-life organizations and is the Department currently collaborating with state and local law enforcement to ensure further incidents do not occur?”

“Threats, destruction of property, and acts of violence are against the law,” Franklin said. “When they are done as a means of intimidation against lawful organizations, or as an attempt to influence the highest Court in our land, they must be identified and investigated for what they truly are — domestic terrorism.”

Tenney argued that “sitting on the sidelines as Americans come under attack for their deeply held religious beliefs and Supreme Court Justices are targeted and intimidated is an indefensible position for the DOJ to take.”

Johnson added, “Politically motivated violence nationwide against pro-life organizations falls clearly within the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement.”

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also pressed Garland on the domestic terrorism classification.

There have also been numerous pro-abortion protests outside the Supreme Court and outside the homes of Republican-appointed justices.

Last week, Nicholas Roske was charged with attempted murder after allegedly trying to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his Maryland home. He traveled thousands of miles and showed up at Kavanaugh’s house with burglary tools, a knife, a gun, and a pair of special boots with outer soles allowing stealth movement inside a house, though he walked away when he spotted deputy U.S. marshals outside.

“This kind of behavior is, obviously, it’s behavior — we will not tolerate it,” Garland said of the attempted assassination last week. “Threats of violence and actual violence against the justices, of course, strike at the heart of our democracy, and we will do everything we can to prevent them and to hold people that do them accountable."

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis issued a mid-May memo that stated that numerous violent social media threats discussed "burning down or storming the U.S. Supreme Court and murdering Justices and their clerks, members of Congress, and lawful demonstrators."

The memo added that "grievances related to restricting abortion access could fuel violence by pro-choice abortion-related violent extremists and other [domestic violent extremists.]"

The House Republicans said, “With this warning made clear, the Department of Justice must act swiftly to investigate and prosecute recent domestic terrorist attacks against pro-life organizations and dissuade future perpetrators of such violence.”

The U.S. attorney and the FBI’s assistant director in charge for the nation’s capital said in a joint statement Friday that “we will not tolerate violence, destruction, interference with government functions, or trespassing on government property,” including at the Supreme Court.

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday to broaden security for Supreme Court justices and their families, with all of the 27 votes opposing the bill coming from Democratic lawmakers.

Last week, 16 Republican senators along with a number of national anti-abortion groups sent a letter to Garland telling him "the criminal acts perpetrated against those who oppose legalized abortion are a clear effort to intimidate or coerce individuals who hold pro-life values."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 11 other GOP senators asked Garland on Wednesday to enforce a federal law against protesting outside the home of Supreme Court justices.

The White House condemned a Molotov cocktail attack on a Wisconsin anti-abortion office in May, saying Biden "strongly condemns this attack and political violence of any stripe.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was pressed on the uptick in arson targeting anti-abortion groups on Monday.

“Well, that’s something, clearly, the DOJ is looking into,” she said. “And they’ve taken that very seriously. We have seen an uptick of that type of arson and bombing and — or attempt to bomb, as we saw just recently over the weekend."