AG Merrick Garland Held in Contempt of Congress Over Biden Tapes

The US House last Wednesday approved a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas for the audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

The resolution passed 216-207, with Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce joining the Democrats in voting against the measure.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees subpoenaed the Justice Department for the audio recordings of President Biden’s October interview in the classified documents investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Hur.

While a transcript of the interview was released in March, Republicans also sought access to the audio. However, the Justice Department refused to turn it over, arguing that the committees failed to identify an “investigative purpose” for their request. The DOJ accused Republican lawmakers of “escalation” and politicizing the issue to seek conflict “for conflict’s sake.” 

Democrat lawmakers argued that Republicans wanted the audio so they could manipulate Biden’s responses for political purposes.

The committees voted in mid-May to advance the contempt of Congress resolution to the full House for a vote after the Justice Department argued that President Biden had asserted executive privilege over the recordings.

Following last Wednesday’s full House vote, Speaker Mike Johnson said that Congress and not the Executive branch decided what materials it needed to conduct its investigations. He said lawmakers have investigative oversight of Special Council Hur’s actions, including his decision not to prosecute the president “for the clear violation of the law.”

In a statement responding to the House vote, Garland said he was disappointed that the House was turning its “serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon.” He claimed that the contempt of Congress vote disregarded the separation of powers and “the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations.”

Ultimately, the vote will be largely symbolic as it is highly unlikely that Garland’s Justice Department would bring charges against Garland.