House Republicans are suing Attorney General Merrick Garland for access to an audio recording of an interview with Biden’s special counsel

WASHINGTON – House Republicans filed a lawsuit Monday against Attorney General Merrick Garland over an audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with the special counsel in his classified documents case, asking courts to enforce the subpoena and reject White House efforts to to conceal materials from the Congress.

The lawsuit filed by the House Judiciary Committee marks another move by Republicans against the Justice Department as partisan conflict over the rule of law animates the 2024 presidential campaign. The legal action comes weeks after the White House blocked Garland from releasing the audio recording to Congress, citing executive privilege.

Republicans in the House responded by voting to make Garland the third attorney general in U.S. history found guilty of contempt of Congress. However, the Justice Department declined to pursue the contempt of court case, citing the agency’s “long-standing position and consistent practice” not to prosecute officials who fail to comply with subpoenas because of the president’s claim of executive privilege.

” READ MORE: Biden furiously rejects special counsel report that questioned his memory, handling of documents

The congressional investigation began with the release in February of a report by special counsel Robert Hur that found evidence that Biden, a Democrat, intentionally withheld and shared highly classified information while he was a private citizen, but Hur concluded that criminal charges were not warranted.

Republicans, outraged by Hur’s decision, issued a subpoena for audio recordings of his interviews with Biden this spring. But the Justice Department has released only a portion of the records, leaving out the audio recording of his interview with the president.

On the final day to comply with Republicans’ subpoena for the tape, the White House blocked the release, citing executive privilege. It said congressional Republicans merely wanted the tapes “chopped up” for political use.

Executive privilege gives presidents the right to withhold information from courts, Congress and the public to protect the confidentiality of decision-making, although that can be challenged in court. Administrations of both major political parties have long taken the position that officials who uphold the president’s claim to executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for contempt of Congress, a Justice Department official told Republicans last month.

Deputy Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte cited the commission’s 2008 decision to withdraw its contempt motion after President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege to block Congress from obtaining records related to Vice President Dick Cheney.

It’s unclear how the case will play out. Courts haven’t had much to say about executive privilege. But in a 1974 case involving President Richard Nixon’s refusal to release Oval Office tapes as part of Watergate investigationThe Supreme Court stated that this privilege is not absolute. In other words, arguments for turning over documents or admitting testimony may be more persuasive than arguments for refusing to do so. Against this backdrop, the court ruled 8-0 that Nixon must turn over the tapes.

When it comes to the Watergate tapes, the Supreme Court has said it has the final say, and lower courts have sometimes weighed in on the resolution of other disputes. But the courts have also made clear that they prefer the White House and Congress to resolve disputes without judicial intervention when possible.

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