Attorney General Merrick Garland was visibly outraged by accusations that he has operated the Justice Department with an anti-Catholic bias on Wednesday.
Garland testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, facing questions from Republicans relating to the investigation of Hunter Biden and other hot-button issues. Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, R-N.J., had a particularly contentious exchange regarding the Justice Department's handling of investigations into Catholic and pro-life groups.
"Do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists, yes or no?" Van Drew asked after listing a series of incidents of alleged anti-Catholic or anti-Christian bias.
"I would be happy to answer all of those," Garland began before being cut off.
"Attorney General, I control the time. I'm gonna ask you to answer the questions I ask," Van Drew said.
"You control time by asking me a substantial number of things?" Garland scoffed.
"Attorney General, though the chair, I ask you do you agree that traditional Catholics are violent extremists?" Van Drew repeated.
"I have no idea what ‘traditional’ means here," Garland said before becoming animated. "The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous – so absurd that you would ask me that question."
Garland comes from a family of Jewish immigrants who fled antisemitism in Eastern Europe in the early 20th century.
"It was your FBI that did this. It was your FBI that was sending – and we have the memos, we have the emails – undercover agents into Catholic churches," Van Drew asserted.
"Both I and the director of the FBI have said that we were appalled by that memo," Garland said.
The pair then spoke over each other for an extended period, with Van Drew repeatedly asking, "Are they extremists or not, attorney general?"
"Catholics are not extremists, no," Garland ultimately said in a frustrated tone.
Garland went on to say that parents attending school board meetings should "of course" not be considered a domestic terror threat, as they had apparently been categorized in a past memo.
The heated exchange arose from an internal FBI memo that leaked to the public earlier this year. The memo suggested there may be a public threat posed by Catholics who attend Latin Mass, express a preference for pre-Vatican II teachings, or endorse Catholic doctrine on sex and marriage.
Garland had several tense exchanges with lawmakers during his testimony before the Judiciary Committee. Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, grilled the Biden appointee over the DOJ's handling of the investigation into Hunter Biden's dealings with Burisma in Ukraine.
The hearing focused on GOP allegations of bias by Biden's DOJ, allegations that Garland fervently denied.