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.
The Missouri senator then turned his attention to the story of Mark Houck.
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.
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