House Votes to Hold AG Garland in Contempt of Congress

House Votes to Hold AG Garland in Contempt of Congress
Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on June 4, 2024, in Washington. (Allison Bailey/Middle East Images via AFP)

WASHINGTON—The House on June 12 voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena to produce audio tapes of President Joe Biden’s interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.

In a mostly party-line 216–207 vote, the House approved a measure to recommend criminal charges for Mr. Garland. One Republican, Ohio Rep. David Joyce,  joined all Democrats to vote against the resolution.

A referral will now be made to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is unlikely to prosecute the matter, so it may end up in the courts.

The passage of the resolution is the culmination of a months-long standoff between House Republicans and the DOJ over the production recordings of President Biden’s two-day interview conducted with Mr. Hur in a probe related to the handling of classified documents. President Biden has invoked executive privilege over the tapes.

Speaking at the Republicans’ weekly news conference ahead of the vote, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) argued that Mr. Garland “doesn’t get to decide whether he’s going to comply with a subpoena or not.”

Responding to the referral, Mr. Garland said it was “deeply disappointing” that the House had “turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon.”

“Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information that we have provided to the Committees,” the attorney general said in a statement.

Mr. Hur’s report, in reaching its conclusion not to recommend charges against the president, cited that President Biden would present to a jury as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

That finding sparked intense scrutiny over the president’s mental acuity—assertions forcefully rejected by President Biden and the White House.

While the DOJ has turned over transcripts and notes from the interview, House Republicans have maintained that they need the tapes to verify the transcript’s accuracy and to confirm that Mr. Hur’s observation was justified.

The DOJ and Democrats pushed back, contending that Republicans wanted the tapes solely for partisan reasons.

“The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal—to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes,” Ed Siskel, President Biden’s counsel, wrote to House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a May 16 letter.

The DOJ has argued that providing the tapes would deter future presidents from cooperating with similar investigations down the road.

“I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations,” Mr. Garland said at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.

The DOJ also raised concerns that artificial intelligence could be used to create “deep fakes” of the audio to distort what President Biden actually said.

In an 18-page June 10 memo to Democrats, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, came to Mr. Garland’s defense.

“The audio recording of that interview will not in any way change the president’s words, nor will it miraculously reveal the evidence of impeachable conduct that committee Republicans have vainly sought in the 3.8 million pages of documents and 80 hours of testimony collected as part of their 17-month impeachment inquiry,” he wrote in the memo, which was obtained by The Epoch Times.

Mr. Garland, in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on June 11, decried the “baseless, personal and dangerous” actions against the DOJ that he said had become “dangerous for our democracy.”

“We will not be intimidated by these attacks. But it is absurd and dangerous that public servants, many of whom risk their lives every day, are being threatened for simply doing their jobs and adhering to the principles that have long guided the Justice Department’s work,” he said.

From The Epoch Times