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Sen. Hawley grills AG Garland on anti-Catholic bias in the FBI, raid on pro-life family:

‘Give me an answer!'

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., grilled Attorney General Merrick Garland over the FBI raid on a pro-life Christian man and asked whether the Department of Justice (DOJ) had an "anti-Catholic bias."

"Our department protects all religions, all ideologies. It does not have any bias against any religion of any kind," Garland said, fielding the question from Hawley during Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Hawley then characterized the DOJ as an agency quick to expend resources and intelligence to be deployed against Catholics while "turning a blind eye" as people are executed in the streets of American cities.

"Your answer frankly surprises me," Hawley added.

In September, FBI agents arrested Houck in Kintnersville for allegedly violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which makes it a federal crime to use force with the intent to injure, intimidate and interfere with anyone because that person produces reproductive health care.

The arrest stemmed from Houck's alleged altercation with a Planned Parenthood escort in Philadelphia in October 2021. Houck was accused of pushing a 72-year-old man after the escort allegedly verbally harassed Houck's 12-year-old son outside the clinic.

Days after the arrest, Hawley sent a letter to Garland, accused him of turning a "local dispute into a national case," and criticized the FBI for executing the search warrant in "extreme a manner as one can imagine."

According to an FBI source, the agents who came to Houck's door had guns out and at the ready, but the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family and were lowered or holstered as soon as Houck was taken into custody.

"Why did the FBI do this?" Hawley asked Garland face-to-face during the Senate hearing. "Why did you send 20-30 SWAT-style agents, SWAT-style team to this guy's house when everybody else had declined to prosecute and he offered to turn himself in?"

Garland said FBI agents on the ground determined how to engage with Houck in the "safest" and easiest way, adding that agents disagreed with Hawley's description of what happened at the scene. A senior FBI source previously told Fox News that there may have been 15-20 agents at the scene but denied 25 were there.

Hawley then asked if it was "objectively necessary" based on established protocol to send agents with long guns and ballistic shields to the home where Houck's wife and children were at the time of the approach.

Garland again stated the decision was made by FBI agents on the ground. When Hawley asked if he was "abdicating responsibility," Garland said no.

"Then give me the answer. Do you think, in your opinion, you are the attorney general of the United States. You are in charge of the Justice Department and yes, sir, you are responsible. So give me an answer."

The two went back and forth for over a minute. Hawley repeatedly pushed for an answer from Garland on whether he thought the FBI raid was "reasonable," but Garland punted the question and merely suggested the facts were not as Hawley described.

"What that the children weren't there? That there weren't long guns there? That there weren't agents? What do you dispute? What's the factual premise that you dispute?" Hawley said, clearly flustered.

Garland finally stated that the FBI disputed Hawley's description of how many agents were at the scene and what their roles were.

"You used an unbelievable show of force with guns that I just note liberals usually decry. We're supposed to hate long guns and assault-style weapons. You're happy to deploy them against Catholics and innocent children. Happy to," Hawley later said. "And then you haul them into court and a jury acquits him in one hour. I suggest to you that is a disgraceful performance by your Justice Department and a disgraceful use of resources."

Hawley then said he "noticed a pattern" and referenced a January 23 memorandum from the FBI field office in Richmond, Virginia, that advocated for "the exploration of new avenues for tripwire and source development against traditionalist Catholics."

"Attorney General, are you cultivating sources and spies in Latin mass parishes and other Catholic parishes across the country?" Hawley asked.

"The Justice Department does not do that and does not do investigations based on religion. I saw the document you sent. It's appalling. It's appalling. I'm in complete agreement with you. I understand that the FBI has withdrawn it and is looking into how this could ever have happened," Garland replied.

Garland also called the document "inappropriate" and noted it did not reflect the methods the FBI is supposed to use. He added that agents should not be relying on any single organization without doing its own work.

When asked how many informants the FBI has in Catholic churches across America, Garland said, "I don't know, and I don't believe we have any informants aimed at Catholic churches. We have a rule against investigations based on First Amendment activity."

Later he said, "I don't know specifically" how many sources are embedded in Catholic churches.

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