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House this week to consider holding AG Garland in contempt

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2024. The Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

House this week to consider holding AG Garland in contempt

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., on Wednesday advanced a measure to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. The resolution stems from Garland’s refusal to send over audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur last year. The House now must consider the measure within two legislative days. Luna first introduced the legislation a month ago.

Hur interviewed the president last October as a part of an investigation into classified information recovered at Biden’s residence in Delaware.

What would the political ramifications of releasing the recordings? The contempt resolution comes as lawmakers expressed alarm over Biden’s debate performance last month. Some House Democrats fear that the president may lack the mental acuity to win reelection in November or effectively carry out another term if he wins.

Why do House Republicans want these recordings? Democrats have characterized Republican efforts to obtain the interview tapes as unnecessary and political. Because a transcript of the interview is public, they claim there is nothing substantive Republicans can hope to learn from the tapes. Republicans contend the recordings’ contents, free of editorial interpretation possibly present in the transcript, are needed to fully evaluate the president’s state of mind during those interviews.

In his final 388-page report, Hur described the 81-year-old president as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Republicans believe the audio will shed light on what led Hur to make that assessment.

Is there bipartisan support for the measure? Luna claimed she had the private support of a handful of Democratic members who have expressed alarm over the DOJ’s refusal to adhere to the House’s requests. She declined to identify which Democrats she had spoken with.

What does the Congresswoman’s stated intentions? Luna characterized the effort as a needed step towards ensuring government agencies and the Department of Justice comply with congressional subpoenas. “What happens to normal Americans when they defy subpoenas? They go to jail.” Luna said on Tuesday. “I think this needs to be the standard for if you defy Congress and defy subpoenas. Otherwise, we are no longer a co-equal branch of government.”

The current version of her measure, called an inherent contempt resolution, wouldn’t mandate Garland’s arrest—although past uses of inherent contempt have been used to detain their recipients. Instead, Luna’s proposal would fine Garland with $10,000 fines until he complies with the subpoenas.

Congress last used the inherent contempt power in 1934 when the Senate held William P. MacCracken Jr., the first Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, in contempt for refusing to testify before Congress.

Dig Deeper: Read my report about House Republicans’ attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this year for failing to stem illegal immigration.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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