House GOP Votes To Hold A.G. Merrick Garland In Contempt Of Congress

On Wednesday, House GOP members voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to release the audio of President Joe Biden‘s interview with former Special Counsel Robert Hur, who was investigating Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. This decision marks the dramatic escalation of the ongoing conflict between Republicans and the Justice Department.

In a 216-207 vote, nearly all Republicans supported the measure to refer Garland to the DOJ for prosecution, while Democrats unanimously opposed it. Garland is the first person held in contempt since Republicans gained control of the House last year.

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), the only Republican to vote against the party, stated after the vote, “As a former prosecutor, I cannot in good conscience support a resolution that would further politicize our judicial system to score political points. The American people expect Congress to work for them, solve policy problems, and prioritize good governance. Enough is enough.”

Garland is unlikely to face charges, especially since Biden asserted executive privilege over the audio tapes. U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves will likely make the final decision.

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Although the Justice Department has provided Congress with the audio transcript and released it publicly, many Republicans and GOP investigators have been pushing for the audio tape, publicly questioning whether it matches the transcript.

In a court filing with outside groups also seeking the audio, a DOJ official confirmed that the audio matched the transcript, aside from minor instances like filler words or repeated phrases. Both Hur and FBI officials present for the interview agreed with this assessment.

Garland and DOJ officials have resisted releasing the audio tape, warning that it could hinder future investigations. They also argued that providing the transcript did not waive executive privilege for the audio, contrary to GOP claims.

In a recent court filing, DOJ officials expressed concerns that releasing the audio publicly could lead to manipulation or the creation of deep fakes. They echoed congressional Democrats’ fears that Republicans might use the audio in campaign ads.

Democrats are particularly worried about statements made by the president during the interview. Reportedly, he had difficulty recalling key details, leading Hur to characterize him in his report as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” The White House has refuted this description, deeming it inaccurate and inappropriate.

Democrats have contended that Republicans’ emphasis on obtaining the audio is simply a tactic to demonstrate advancement in their prolonged impeachment inquiry into Biden, primarily centered on the business dealings of his family members.

“It is deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon,” said Garland after the vote. “Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the Committees.”

The GOP’s decision to hold Garland in contempt represents their most significant victory against the Justice Department amid ongoing resistance to the charges and convictions against Trump.

GOP officials have cautioned about potential future efforts to hold Garland in “inherent contempt” if the Justice Department “doesn’t do its job.” However, the dispute over the audio is expected to unfold in court and likely won’t be resolved before the November election.

Riley Flynn

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