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House Votes to Contempt Garland for Withholding Audio in Biden Docs Case

GOP accuses AG Garland of obstructing oversight in Biden investigation, sparking partisan clash

The GOP-led House passed a resolution on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for withholding subpoenaed recordings from the investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents led by special counsel Robert Hur.

In a largely party-line vote, 216 Republicans backed the measure while 206 Democrats and one Republican opposed it. Eight members, including one Republican and seven Democrats, did not vote. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) was the sole Republican who voted against the resolution.

“We can’t allow the Department of Justice, an executive branch agency, to hide information from Congress. We have important oversight responsibilities, and that is what is being pursued here,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said during a press conference before the vote on Wednesday.

Garland drew the ire of Republicans for not fully complying with two subpoenas that demanded tapes of Hur’s two-day interview with Biden and the special counsel’s interview with Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer. Garland argued that such a request would impede future investigations.

Contempt of Congress proceedings have been ongoing since last month. Biden's assertion of executive privilege over the tapes failed to quell the endeavor. Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) said Republicans believe such privilege was waived when the transcripts were released.

The contempt resolution could, in theory, prompt a Department of Justice (DOJ) case that might result in Garland facing up to a year of prison time and fines of up to $100,000. However, a DOJ memo obtained by The Hill insists Garland is shielded from prosecution because of privilege.

The report from Hur’s team described Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” whom a jury likely would not convict “of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.” Prosecutors ultimately declined to recommend charges against the president.

Hur also found that Zwonitzer deleted recordings of conversations with Biden upon learning about the documents inquiry. The ghostwriter provided “plausible, innocent reasons” for his actions during the interview. Hur’s team said they ultimately determined the evidence would not suffice for a conviction on obstruction of justice, according to the special counsel report.

Biden rejected Hur’s characterizations in his report, but Garland insisted that it would have been “absurd” for someone in his position to have edited or censored the special counsel’s explanation.

The fight over the Hur probe audio comes as Biden is running for a second term, paving the way toward another face-off against former President Donald Trump, who faces his own classified records case and was recently convicted in a hush-money trial in New York. Democrats claimed the push to hold Garland in contempt of Congress was meant to “placate” and boost Trump.

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