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Attorney General Merrick Garland held in contempt of Congress

Attorney General Merrick Garland listens to a question while testifying during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Department of Justice, June 4, 2024, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Associated Press/Photo by Jacquelyn Martin, File

Attorney General Merrick Garland held in contempt of Congress

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to find U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. The vote comes in response to Garland’s refusal to provide audio of former Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with President Joe Biden. Garland refused to comply with a February subpoena by the House Judiciary and the Oversight and Accountability committees. While the DOJ released the interview transcript in March, it still withholds the audio from the committees who subpoenaed it.

The interviews, which took place on Oct. 8 and 9 of last year, were part of Hur’s investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents he retained as vice president under former President Barack Obama. Hur did not recommend Biden for prosecution, saying he would likely depict himself as a well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory and that a jury would likely sympathize with him.

Why do the Committees want the audio? In a Judiciary Committee hearing last month, Chairman Jim Jordan said the committee needs the audio to determine whether Hur appropriately carried out justice in his investigation. He added that the audio of the interviews is necessary to truly understand Biden’s mental state.

Why won’t the DOJ release the audio? In mid-May, according to documents obtained by Politico, Garland advised Biden to exert executive privilege over the interview audio and keep it private. Garland wrote to Biden that releasing the audio to the House Committees would have a chilling effect on witnesses in future high-profile Justice Department cases. Witnesses in such cases could refuse to let investigators record interviews with them for fear that the recordings could later be made public, he said.

Catherine Gripp

Catherine Gripp is a graduate of World Journalism Institute.

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