Justice’ Body Clarifies Coughlin Role in ‘front’ Probe; Aim to Seek Inciters Stressed

The Department of Justice issued a statement today clarifying the relationship of Charles E. Coughlin to the investigation of the Christian Front, 17 of whose members are being held for Grand Jury action on sedition charges, and reiterating its decision to investigate the activities of any person or group backing or inciting the alleged plotters.

The statement was issued, it was explained, in connection with “stories in the New York press intimating that the Department of Justice has, on the complaint of a particular organization in that city, instituted an investigation of Father Charles E. Coughlin.”

Although former Attorney General Frank Murphy less than a month ago specifically denied that he had received any complaints concerning Coughlin, the statement declared that many complaints similar to that filed by the organization in question (the Jewish Peoples’ Committee) had been received “over a period of several months.”

These complaints, the Department of Justice asserted, had in each case been acknowledged with replies containing the following “form” paragraph: “Kindly be advised that the matters mentioned in your communication are receiving the attention of the department.”

“This is a form reply,” the statement continued, “customarily made to complainants bringing to the attention of the department alleged violations of federal law of this particular kind. Over a period of several months many identical replies have been made to many complainants about the same matter. It appears that one of the organizations receiving such form of response has for reasons best known to itself made the reply public and given the erroneous impression that this department has taken action in special response to the complaint of this particular organization.

“As already announced to the press, Attorney General Jackson recently instructed Assistant Attorney General Rogge to proceed to Brooklyn to cooperate with the United States Attorney, Harold M. Kennedy, in connection with the sedition charges against 17 defendants arrested there on Jan. 15 as a result of evidence gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover.

“Mr. Rogge was instructed to include in the Grand Jury probe an examination ‘of the activities of any individual or group wherever located who may have aided, abetted, directed, financed or incited these unlawful ends.’ These instructions were made public on Jan. 21 at the time Mr. Rogge was assigned to the matter. They further provided: ‘Out of this investigation should come a clear identification of any persons or groups who have provoked or financed or otherwise conspired with these defendants. They should be held responsible for their conduct if they have violated or induced the violation of any federal law. If, on the other hand, these defendants have acted independently of any others, the public should be assured of that fact so that there may be no exaggerated anxiety caused by the incident.

“These instructions do not constitute an accusation against any persons involved but only call for a thoroughgoing inquiry in accordance with our traditional grand jury system. The department is engaged in the gathering of evidence and the analysis of evidence. Who may become involved in the investigation depends entirely upon the evidence developed.”

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