The Daily Wire this week filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice over its failure to respond to public information requests for documents related to its Community Relations Service.
The Community Relations Service (CRS) is a federal agency within DOJ that the Trump administration unsuccessfully sought to defund — it simultaneously advocates for left-wing causes while also purporting to offer unbiased “mediation,” including between local governments and left-wing agitators. It describes itself as “America’s Peacemaker” for “communities facing conflict based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.”
This summer, it attempted to thwart the will of voters in a deep-red county in Virginia by pressuring the local school board to have the federal government mediate whether the school district adopts Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s transgender policies. As justification, CRS cited “community tensions,” alluding to the fact that a leftist activist had been arrested for an alleged crime while trying to stop the policy’s adoption.
The move appeared to reward criminal behavior and subvert democracy, through which voters had already chosen a school board who represented their views. A spokeswoman for Youngkin said CRS was acting as “a political arm of the Democratic Party.”
After The Daily Wire in August obtained the email showing a CRS “conciliation specialist,” Hannah Levine, emailing the Roanoke, Virginia school board to offer “support and services,” it filed a FOIA for further emails from Levine. CRS did not even acknowledge the request.
In October, The Daily Wire filed a second FOIA requesting broader information about CRS’s operations. It again did not reply.
America First Legal served as lawyers for The Daily Wire in the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In the complaint, AFL attorney Jacob Meckler asked the court to “declare that the records sought by The Daily Wire’s requests must be disclosed” and “aware The Daily Wire attorneys’ fees.”
Ian Prior, a senior adviser for America First Legal, said the Biden administration’s actions in Virginia were “eye-opening.”
“It was eye-opening to see the Department of Justice try and interfere with a local Virginia school board’s decision-making on Governor Youngkin’s model policy, especially given that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s infamous memo was a contributing factor in Youngkin winning election and proposing the very policy at issue her,” Prior said. “It is even more concerning that the Department of Justice has refused to even acknowledge a Freedom of Information Act request which seeks to get to the bottom of their decision.”
The lawsuit is part of The Daily Wire’s commitment to investigative journalism and government transparency.
It is also the latest in a string of legal actions by the media company. This month, it sued the State Department for sponsoring efforts to censor conservative media. The Daily Wire also brought the first-in-the-nation lawsuit against the Biden administration’s requirement that any business with more than 100 employees force them to take the COVID vaccine. The Supreme Court agreed, deciding 6-3 to stay the mandate.
Amy Condra, a spokeswoman for the CRS, in August told The Daily Wire that “Title X of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 authorized CRS to assist communities facing disputes, disagreements or difficulties relating to allegations of discriminatory practices based on race, color or national origin. CRS’ mandate expanded in 2009 under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act to include working with communities to prevent and respond to alleged hate crimes.”
(Shepard was a gay man who was murdered in the 1990s. Subsequent reporting found that Shepard was killed by a fellow gay man in a dispute related to drugs, and the incident was falsely portrayed as a hate crime.)
“CRS can be invited into a community by any of the stakeholders involved” and “can also initiate involvement in communities where we believe our services can be of assistance,” she wrote.
The October FOIA asked for documents listing basic information about all facilitations, mediations, training, and consultations held by CRS.
It holds “facilitations” like “Dialogue on Race” and “Bias Incidents and Hate Crimes Forum.”
And it performs “consultations” where the federal government attempts to shape local government’s actions, such as holding a session on “Addressing Perceived Racism and use of Force” where the result of agitators “allegedly throw[ing] objects at the police” was a recommendation for “diversity and inclusion training for city staff.”
The agency says its mediators are “impartial” and that, “During the mediation process, CRS does not advocate for any party, nor for any particular issue. Rather, the mediator is focused on delivering a fair and unbiased process that assists parties to develop agreements.”
But it simultaneously advocates for leftist causes and portrays conservative policies as bad. CRS says it wants to “create inclusive and equitable communities for all” and run “training programs” such as “Engaging and Building Relationships with Transgender Communities.”
Becky Monroe, the acting director of CRS during the Obama administration, made its partisan bent clear, telling Propublica during the Trump administration that “the president and this administration have really undermined the core mission of the agency by trying to incite racist violence.”
The mediations carry the implied threat that if the leftist agitators don’t get their way, they may commit violence. “Mediation is aimed at empowering local communities to develop solutions that work for them, while offering an alternative to litigation or violence,” its website says.
CRS has deployed to sites of racial riots like Ferguson, Missouri and Minneapolis.
In its “budget book,” the Heritage Foundation said “The budget of the Community Relations Service (CRS) should be entirely eliminated. Rather than fulfilling its mandate of trying to be the ‘peacemaker’ for community conflicts, the CRS has raised tensions in local communicates in recent incidents such as the Zimmerman case in Florida.”
An anonymous CRS staffer told Propublica: “Because we work with communities of color, some people believe we’re instigating these issues. We’re not. We’re helping them resolve these conflicts.”