Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz slammed Democratic Reps. Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar after the pair retweeted a clip claiming that the senator was defending Nazis.
Aaron Rupar, who describes himself as a journalist on Twitter, tweeted a 27-second clip of a conversation between Attorney General Merrick Garland and Sen. Cruz on Wednesday from Capitol Hill where Cruz was grilling Garland on the Justice Department’s handling of unrest at school boards across the country. Rupar described Cruz’s comments as “defending Nazi salutes.”
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Rupar’s tweet was quickly reposted by Rep. Omar claimed Sen. Cruz was defending Nazis and by Rep. Swalwell who said the same.
Cruz responded to both on Twitter.
“You are frequently a liar (when you’re not sleeping with Chinese spies),” Cruz told Swalwell. “But here, you’re lie is exactly 180 degrees false. I was defending the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies. In other words, to OPPOSE Nazis (or petty tyrants), not to support them.”
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In response to Omar, Cruz said, “You are frequently a liar (and often spewing anti-Semitism). But here, you’re lie is exactly 180 degrees false. I was defending the right of citizens to denounce authoritarian policies. In other words, to OPPOSE Nazis (or petty tyrants), not to support them.”
In the clip, Cruz tells Garland that the number of incidents at school board events outlined by the National School Board Association is twenty and that fifteen of those, including insults and Nazi salutes, were non-violent. Cruz was making the case that the DOJ was wrong to deploy FBI resources to investigate these alleged incidents that are protected by the First Amendment.
“We can all see the clip,” columnist Eli Lake said in defense of Cruz. “Cruz is saying the Nazi salute, which is done in protest of school board officials and not as a sign of fidelity to national socialism, is first amendment protected speech.”
“Lefty journos are either (1) dishonest or (2) not very bright (or both),” Cruz said in direct response to Rupar’s post. “The parent was doing the Nazi salute because he was calling the authoritarian school board Nazis—evil, bad & abusive. And yes, calling someone a Nazi is very much protected by the First Amendment.”
The NSBA has since apologized for the memo sent to the DOJ and said there was “no justification for some of the language” it contained. Garland has refused to back down from his position that violence from angry parents at school board meetings should be monitored by the FBI which has called on some to call for his resignation.
Appearing on Capitol Hill for the second time in two weeks, Garland told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that the NSBA’s second letter – which contained an apology for inflammatory language in the first one – had no bearing on the DOJ’s stance.
“The letter that was subsequently sent does not change the association’s concern of violence or threats of violence. It alters some of the language in the letter … that we did not rely on and is not contained in my own memorandum,” Garland said after committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked if he had “second thoughts” following the apology.
Garland claimed that the DOJ is not just concerned about school board officials, but a “rising tide” of violence against judges, prosecutors, election administrators, and others.
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“The only thing the Justice Department is concerned about: violence and threats of violence,” he said.
The committee’s ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, claimed that the DOJ memo had a “poisonous, chilling effect” on speech, as it specifically dealt with opposition to school board officials. When he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Garland acknowledged the influence of the NSBA’s original letter, which cited instances including non-violent behavior that did not include threats, but that was deemed disruptive.
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report