White House blocks release of Biden video as Republicans continue with contempt charges against Garland

WASHINGTON – The White House blocked the release of an audio recording on Thursday President Joe Biden’s interview with the special adviser about his handling of classified documents, arguing that Republicans in Congress just wanted the recordings “chopping up” and used for political purposes.

Hours later, the House Judiciary Committee voted to make an effort to keep the resolution Attorney General Merrick Garland contempt of Congress for failing to turn over the records. A second vote is scheduled for later Thursday with the House oversight committee. However, the timing of any action by the full House and the readiness of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to act on the referral remained uncertain.

“The department has a legal obligation to turn over the requested materials pursuant to the subpoena,” Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the GOP Judiciary Committee, said during the hearing. “Attorney General Garland’s conscious refusal to comply with our subpoena constitutes contempt of Congress.”

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The rapid sequence of events on Thursday further inflamed tensions between House Republicans and the Justice Department, setting the stage for another round of bitter fights between the two branches of government that seemed all but certain to move to court.

If House Republicans’ efforts against Garland are successful, he will become the third attorney general to be found in contempt of Congress. In a letter Thursday, the White House sharply criticized Republicans, dismissing their efforts to obtain the recording as purely political.

“The lack of a legitimate need for the audio recordings exposes your likely purpose – to chop, distort and operate them for partisan political purposes,” White House adviser Ed Siskel wrote in a scathing letter to House Republicans ahead of schedule. votes of both House committees to refer Garland to the Department of Justice contempt charges.

“It is inappropriate to request such sensitive and constitutionally protected law enforcement materials from the executive branch because you want to manipulate them for potential political gain,” Siskel added.

In a letter made public Thursday, Garland separately informed Biden that the audio recording falls within the scope of executive secrecy, which protects the president’s ability to obtain candid advice from advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure and protects confidential communications related to his official duties.

The attorney general told reporters that the Justice Department had made every effort to provide the committees with information about special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation, including a transcript of Biden’s interview with Hur. However, Garland said releasing the recording could jeopardize future sensitive and high-profile investigations. Officials suggest that handing over the tape could make future witnesses fearful of cooperating with investigators.

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“There have been a series of unprecedented and frankly baseless attacks on the Department of Justice,” Garland said. “This request and this attempt to use contempt as a method to obtain confidential law enforcement files is a recent phenomenon.”

The Department of Justice warned Congress that the contempt attempt would create an “unnecessary and unwarranted conflict,” and Deputy Attorney General Carlos Uriarte stated: “The administrations of both parties have maintained the long-standing position of the executive branch that an official who maintains the president’s claims of executive privilege cannot be held in contempt.” Congress.

Then comes Siskel’s letter to lawmakers outcry from Biden advisers and allies Hooray for comments Biden’s age and mental acuity, and highlights concerns in a tough election year about how potentially embarrassing moments of a lengthy interview could be exacerbated by the publication or selective sharing of the audio recording.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson sharply criticized the White House’s move, accusing Biden of withholding the recording because he fears voters will hear the tape in an election year.

“The American people will not be able to hear why prosecutors believed that the president of the United States was, in the words of special counsel Robert Hur, ‘an elderly man with a poor memory’ and therefore should not be charged,” Johnson said. during a press conference on the steps of the House of Representatives.

House Democrats defended Biden’s case during further hearings on Thursday, citing the enormous trove of documents and witnesses that have been shared with Republicans as part of the more than year-long investigation into Biden and his family.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that Republicans want to appear as though they have uncovered Justice Department wrongdoing.

“In fact, the Attorney General and the Department of Justice have fully responded to this committee’s actions in every way that may have been relevant to their long-concluded impeachment investigation,” the New York lawmaker said. “In my opinion, they have been overly responsive at times, given the obvious bad faith of the MAGA majority.”

Democrats see the contemptuous attempt as a last-ditch effort to keep Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Biden alive, despite a series of setbacks in recent months and scant support for articles of impeachment at the GOP conference.

Transcription interview with Hur it showed Biden struggling to recall some dates and sometimes getting some details wrong – something longtime advisers say he has been doing for years, both in public and private – but otherwise showing deep memory in other areas. Biden and his aides are particularly sensitive to questions about his age. He is 81 years venerable the oldest president in historyand is running for another four-year term.

How, former senior official in the Trump administration’s Department of Justicehe was appointed special adviser in January 2023 after the discovery of secret documents related to Biden in multiple locations.

Hur report stated that many documents recovered at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, parts of Biden’s home in Delaware and in his Senate papers at the University of Delaware were preserved in “mistake.”

However, investigators found evidence of intentional storage and disclosure of some documents found at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, including in the garage, office and basement.

The files cover the Obama administration’s troop surge in Afghanistan, which Biden vehemently opposed. Biden kept records documenting his positions, including a secret letter to Obama on Thanksgiving Day in 2009. Some of this information was shared with Ghostwriter, with whom he published memoirs in 2007 and 2017.

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