House Republicans Consider Holding Attorney General in Contempt - The World News

House Republicans Consider Holding Attorney General in Contempt

House Republicans are threatening to hold Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audio of President Biden’s interview with a special counsel investigating his handling of government documents.

On Thursday, the Judiciary and Oversight committees — run by allies of Mr. Trump — will hold sessions on Mr. Garland after he rejected their subpoenas for the recordings. Transcripts of the discussions, which took place between Mr. Biden and the special counsel Robert K. Hur, have already been made public after Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime.

The contempt resolution would have to go to the full House for a vote. Approval is not certain given Republicans’ narrow majority and intraparty divisions, congressional aides said.

Even if the measure passed, it would be little more than a symbolic gesture; the Biden administration would almost certainly decline to prosecute. The Justice Department opted not to pursue charges against two of Mr. Garland’s predecessors when they were held in contempt: Eric H. Holder Jr., a Democrat, in 2012 and William P. Barr, a Republican, in 2020.

The move is part of a broader effort by Republican lawmakers such as Jim Jordan of Ohio, who leads the Judiciary Committee, and James R. Comer of Kentucky, who leads the oversight panel, to train their sights on Biden administration officials after failing to impeach Mr. Biden on behalf of Mr. Trump, who has been impeached twice and indicted four times.

If they succeed in getting Mr. Garland to release the recording, which is highly unlikely, it could provide damaging evidence of Mr. Hur’s characterization of the president as an “elderly man with a poor memory” and provide valuable fodder for Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Their fallback — a contempt vote — is intended to embarrass Mr. Garland by landing a glancing blow against the man Mr. Trump blames for a “witch hunt.”

In February, Mr. Hur, a former Justice Department official in the Trump administration, dropped a political bomb into the middle of the 2024 campaign, releasing a nearly 400-page final report summing up his investigation. The document is an excruciatingly detailed assessment of Mr. Biden’s faulty memory that overshadowed his conclusion: Mr. Biden, unlike Mr. Trump, should not face criminal charges.

The Republican argument for releasing the recording, laid out in the 12-page resolution under consideration on Thursday, represents a mash-up of motives and investigations.

Republicans argue that the audio is needed to resolve possible discrepancies between the transcript and recording. At various points, they say it would offer “unique and important information” that would aid in enacting change to future special counsel investigations, or allow them to get to the bottom of his family’s business dealings, even though that was never part of Mr. Hur’s investigation.

But mostly, they suggest that reading Mr. Biden’s words is not as good as hearing them.

The transcripts “do not reflect important verbal context, such as tone or tenor, or nonverbal context, such as pauses or pace of delivery,” committee staff members wrote.

“The verbal nuances in President Biden’s answers about his mishandling of classified information would assist the committees’ inquiry into whether he abused his office of public trust for his family’s financial gain,” they added.

In the past, Mr. Garland and other department officials have shown a willingness to defuse conflicts by reaching compromises with the House. Not this time.

In a sharply worded letter sent to Mr. Jordan and Mr. Comer earlier this month, an aide to Mr. Garland argued that turning over the audio would represent a dangerous precedent and give the legislative branch improper influence over executive branch law enforcement functions.

“The decision to sit down with investigators and prosecutors should not include a tacit invitation for the committees to participate, comment or apply selective hindsight,” wrote Carlos F. Uriarte, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

“It would be severely chilling if the decision to cooperate with a law enforcement investigation required individuals to submit themselves to public inquest by politicians,” he added.

Representative Glenn F. Ivey, Democrat of Maryland, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, accused Mr. Jordan of abusing his power — and imperiling future legislative oversight efforts.

“It’s purely political,” he said. “The only reason they want the recording is to try to use clips for campaign ads, or something along those lines, which obviously doesn’t meet the legislative purpose standard that the Supreme Court set for congressional oversight.”

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