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House GOP Votes To Hold Merrick Garland In Contempt Of Congress

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Republicans voted 216-207 on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the audio of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, voted with Democrats not to hold Garland in contempt.

Speaker Mike Johnson called the vote a “significant step in maintaining the integrity of our oversight processes and responsibilities by holding Attorney General Garland in contempt of Congress.”

“Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight of the Special Counsel’s work and specifically Special Counsel Hur’s determination not to prosecute President Biden for the clear violation of the law,” Johnson’s statement continued.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) shared a transcript of the interview in which Hur described Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory” and therefore would not levy charges against the president for taking top-secret documents to his Delaware home. Hur’s team wrote in their report that “based on our direct interactions with and observations of [Biden], he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt.”

“It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his eighties — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness,” the report continued.

[READ NEXT: Either Biden Is An ‘Elderly Man With A Poor Memory,’ Or He Needs To Be Charged. Pick One]

Hur further reported that Biden’s memory “appeared to have significant limitations,” noting Biden could not remember the start and end date of his terms as vice president.

Republicans issued subpoenas for a copy of the tapes shortly after Hur’s report came out, with some Republicans like Majority Whip Tom Emmer suggesting the transcript may have been edited and not actually match the audio. Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee in March that the White House had asked him to make “certain edits” to the report.

Garland cited concerns that someone could manipulate the audio using AI as a reason for not releasing the audio and argued the transcript was sufficient, but as my colleague David Harsanyi writes, “the real problem here isn’t the deep fake; it’s the unedited tape.”

“Withholding the audio is obviously politically motivated,” Harsanyi explains.

But if you’re hoping for any legitimate accountability with Wednesday’s vote, don’t hold your breath. The DOJ gets to choose whether it will take any action against an individual whom Congress has held in contempt. Biden’s DOJ seems ready to cover for Garland. An internal memo from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) argued that since Biden claimed executive privilege over the tapes, Garland had no responsibility to turn them over to Congress, according to The Hill.

The OLC argues that there is no precedent for an administration official being prosecuted for not complying with a congressional subpoena so long as the president has exercised executive privilege.

“For nearly seven decades and across presidential administrations of both parties, the Executive Branch has taken the position that the criminal contempt of Congress statute … does not apply to Executive Branch officials who do not comply with a congressional subpoena based on a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” the memo states, according to The Hill.


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