House Republicans vote to hold attorney general in contempt in audio recording dispute

WASHINGTON — House Republicans voted Wednesday to censure Attorney General Merrick Garland for refusing to release audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s conversations with Justice Department officials.

GOP lawmakers maintain the recording is valuable to their months-long impeachment investigation into Biden.

After Republicans in the House of Representatives directed a contempt order against Garland Agreement with Biden’s assurance executive privilege over tapes of his interrogations during special prosecutor Robert Hur’s investigation into his handling of classified materials. Hur ultimately did not recommend criminal charges against Biden.

The House voted 216-207 adopt a resolution. Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio was the only Republican to vote “no.”

“Congress cannot serve as a necessary check on the president when the executive branch is free to defy duly authorized, legal subpoenas,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, said in a statement after the vote. “House Republicans rightly held Attorney General Merrick Garland accountable today for his failure to comply with lawful subpoenas issued by the Oversight and Judiciary Committee.”

Garland released a statement condemning the vote as “deeply disappointing” and accusing House Republicans of turning “a serious power of Congress into a partisan weapon.”

“Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Department of Justice’s need to protect its investigations, and the significant amount of information we have provided to the committees,” Garland said in a statement.

The Department of Justice assured transcription Hura Biden interviews to both committees.

However, GOP committee leaders have requested the audio because they believe the transcripts are “insufficient.”

“We’re in the middle of an impeachment inquiry, we’re entitled to the best evidence, and that’s why we need the tapes,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, D-Ohio, said on the floor Wednesday morning while debating the contempt resolution.

Jordan accused the White House of having a “history of changes to transcripts,” an apparent reference to a behind schedule April report by the right-wing newspaper Daily Caller that highlighted changes to transcripts made by White House communications staff. The White House routinely releases transcripts of Biden’s speeches and comments.

“The audio recording is the best evidence of the words that President Biden actually said,” Jordan continued on the floor.

News organizations also deal with audio. Several, including CNN AND NBCThey filed a lawsuit over the recordings under the Freedom of Information Act.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, on Wednesday criticized Republicans for trying to show Garland in contempt over the ongoing impeachment inquiry, which he described as a “mad wild goose chase.”

GOP House lawmakers already have access to the “verbatim” transcript, the Maryland Democrat said.

“Do they think that the holy grail of the 118th Congress – evidence of the president’s high crime and misdemeanor – lurks in the pauses or on the audio tape in the background of grunts and sneezes?” Raskin continued. “…They literally don’t even know what they’re looking for anymore.”

House of Representatives lawmakers voted under party guidelines to launch an impeachment inquiry in December into whether Biden profited from his son Hunter’s overseas business dealings while he was vice president.

Trump, Biden and classified documents

In response to Raskin’s accusations, Jordan said on the floor Wednesday that Republicans know what they want: “We strive for equal treatment under the law,” he said.

“The committees need the audio recordings to determine whether the Justice Department properly administered justice by not prosecuting the president,” Jordan said.

“They told us, ‘We will act independently of the White House’… OK, maybe so, but we know this much: One former president has been charged. “Joe Biden is not (indicted),” Jordan continued on the floor.

Trump faces federal criminal charges in Florida related to his storage of classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach estate, after his loss to Biden in the 2020 presidential election. There was a case delayed indefinitely by trial judge Aileen Cannon.

At the beginning of February Hur rejected bring criminal charges against Biden for handling classified information. Hur described Biden in his report as a ‘likeable, well-meaning older man with a penniless memory,’ Biden comments sharply he reprimanded.

Hur interviewed Biden in October 2023 as part of an investigation into classified documents dating to Biden’s time as vice president. There were documents found at the President’s Office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., and later privately Wilmington Housein November 2022 and January 2023, respectively.

The recent trend in criminal contempt

Criminal contempt it is a tool that Congress can utilize as leverage to obtain compliance with subpoenas. Such a citation is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment for at least one month, but not more than 12 months, if the Department of Justice brings charges.

While this tool has rarely been used in Congress in the past, it is becoming more common. As of 2019, the Chamber does approved six such quotes. So far, the Justice Department has declined to bring charges against scorned executive branch officials. The statute of limitations is five years.

The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment on whether it would bring charges against Garland, an unlikely scenario.

Garland is not the first U.S. attorney general to be treated with contempt.

The Democratic-led House has held former President Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, in custody contempt Congress in 2019 after he refused to turn over documents related to the 2020 Census and ordered a Justice Department employee to ignore a subpoena to testify.

Department of Justice NO bring charges against Barr, who was held in contempt along with then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served in the Obama administration, has been detained contempt Congress in June 2012 for refusing to provide documents related to Operation Fast and Furious – an investigation into arms trafficking on the US-Mexico border.

The Justice Department declined to prosecute Holder. Holder was the first U.S. cabinet member in history to be charged with contempt of Congress.

Congress also treated Holder in civil contempt over the botched operation, leading to a years-long lawsuit that ended in a 2019 settlement.

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