Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has written to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to ask that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate Tennessee Republicans for expelling three Democrats who disrupted the legislature last month.
The Democrats did so in support of gun control activists who had invaded the state capitol — an offense Schumer, in other contexts, has described as “insurrection” against democracy.
As Wendell Husebø noted at Breitbart News:
Legislators Justin Jones (D) and Justin Pearson (D) were expelled earlier in March for taking over the democratic debate in collusion with gun protesters who invaded the Tennessee Capitol. Gloria Johnson (D), a third representative, narrowly survived an expulsion vote.
Both Jones and Pearson were restored to their positions by their respective municipalities.
Democrats have claimed that Republicans were motivated by racism, since Johnson is white. However, as Washington Examiner columnist Byron York notes, she was not as aggressive in disrupting proceedings.
In an April 12, 2023 letter to Garland, Schumer joined Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and three others — Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) — in demanding that Garland investigate.
They also argued that democratic legislatures should, in fact, be disrupted, given the seriousness of the issue (original emphasis, footnotes removed):
We write to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to use all available legal authorities to investigate the expulsions of Representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the Tennessee General Assembly, the state legislature of Tennessee, to determine whether any violations of the United States Constitution or federal civil rights laws have occurred, and to take all steps necessary to uphold the democratic integrity of our nation’s legislative bodies.
On March 30, 2023, three legislators from Tennessee—Representatives Jones, Johnson, and Pearson—joined this growing chorus of Americans by protesting their colleagues’ inaction on gun violence on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives. There are no allegations that these democratically-elected officials engaged in any violent or illegal conduct. By courageously participating in nonviolent demonstrations, they challenged procedural rules governing decorum and good behavior. We believe the repeated and preventable slaughter of our children should frustrate and disrupt decorum because this horrifying pattern must never be accepted as business as usual. Moreover, we do not believe that breaking decorum is alone sufficient cause for employing the most draconian of consequences to duly-elected lawmakers.
The Tennessee state legislature has reportedly never previously expelled a member over purely procedural violations. Instead, previous expulsions have involved serious allegations of ethical or criminal misconduct. In taking this radical action, rather than responding to the intolerable violence inflicted upon a Tennessee community, the Tennessee House of Representatives chose to silence Black members of their own body who were protesting nonviolently, in response to violence.
In light of this serious threat to our democracy, we urge you to prioritize all investigations into any violations of rights under federal law or the U.S. Constitution posed by the expulsions of the Tennessee legislators.
The letter to Garland recalls an earlier effort, by the National School Boards Association, urging the DOJ to investigate parents who objected at public meetings about Critical Race Theory and transgenderism in schools. Garland’s subsequent directive to law enforcement officials nationwide to monitor local board meetings was met with outrage, and is currently the subject of investigation by the House Weaponization Subcommittee.
Schumer has argued that those who entered the U.S. Capitol on January 6 — including those who were peaceful and otherwise broke no laws — participated in an “insurrection” against democracy by disrupting a proceeding of the legislature. Now that he has argued in favor of “insurrection,” as long as the cause is one he likes, the Harvard-trained lawyer has arguably provided a defense for every non-violent January 6 arrestee.
The White House announced Wednesday that President Joe Biden will meet with, and honor, the “Tennessee Three.” He has yet to meet with the families of the victims of the Nashville shooting last month– which inspired the gun control protest at the state capitol — and has yet to meet with the police officers who killed the shooter.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.