Missouri senator sends letter to Garland demanding answers on Houck pro-life arrest

Missouri senator sends letter to Garland demanding answers on Houck pro-life arrest

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Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Monday sent Attorney General Merrick Garland a letter demanding answers on “shocking reports” about the FBI arresting a Catholic pro-life activist at his home in rural Pennsylvania last Friday. 

FBI agents arrest Mark Houck in Kintnersville Friday 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 an alleged altercation Houck had with a Planned Parenthood escort in Philadelphia in October 2021. Houck is accused of pushing a 72-year-old man after the escort allegedly verbally harassed Houck’s 12-year-old son outside the clinic.  

Houck has maintained that he was trying to defend his son, and authorities have already dismissed a separate complaint against him for the same conduct. 

WHAT IS THE FACE ACT AT THE CENTER OF PENNSYLVANIA PRO-LIFE ACTIVIST ASSAULT CASE? 

In his letter to Garland, Hawley accused the Attorney General 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.” 

Houck’s wife, Ryan-Marie, told Catholic News Agency that a “SWAT team of about 25 came to my house with about 15 vehicles and started pounding on our door.”  

FILE: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Department of the Air Force in review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2023 and the Future Years Defense Program, in Dirksen Building on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. 
(Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

The FBI has refuted her claims, saying that no SWAT Team or SWAT operators were involved in the arrest. 

“FBI agents knocked on Mr. Houck’s front door, identified themselves as FBI agents, and asked him to exit the residence,” FBI agents told Fox News in a statement. “He did so and was taken into custody without incident pursuant to an indictment.” 

A senior FBI source told Fox News there may have been 15-20 agents at the scene, but denied 25 were there. The agents who came to the door had guns out and at the ready, according to this FBI source, but the guns were never pointed at Houck or his family and were lowered or holstered as soon as Houck was taken into custody.

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Still, Hawley argued that “using this kind of force to make an arrest for a single charge of simple assault is unprecedented.” 

He said the reports were particularly shocking given that the Department of Justice has allegedly “turned a blind eye to the epidemic of violence across the country by pro-abortion extremists against pregnancy resource centers, houses of worship, and pro-life Americans – violent acts that are prohibited by the very same law” Houck is being charged with. 

FILE:  Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland is sworn-in during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on February 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. 

FILE:  Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland is sworn-in during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on February 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. 
(Getty Images)

Hawley cited a report which cited more than 100 incidents of extremist violence against pregnancy resource centers, churches and pro-life Americans since the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that indicated the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade would be overturned. 

“All of this comes after more than a year of your office repeatedly weaponizing the FBI and other arms of the federal government against political opponents,” Hawley said. “If you are trying to inspire confidence in your department, you are failing magnificently.”

Hawley ended the letter saying Garland must testify, under oath, before the Senate Judiciary Committee and his alleged “selected use and apparent political weaponization of the FACE Act.”

Fox News has reached out to the Department of Justice for comment. 

The FBI has maintained that extensive planning takes place prior to the service of any federal warrant and the bureau “employs the personnel and tactics deemed necessary to effect a safe arrest or a search.” 

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“While it’s the FBI’s standard practice not to discuss such operational specifics, we can say that the number of personnel and vehicles widely reported as being on scene Friday is an overstatement, and the tactics used by FBI personnel were professional, in line with standard practices, and intended to ensure the safety of everyone present in and outside the residence,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. 

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