House GOP Pushes Contempt Vote Against Attorney General Over Biden Tapes

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on whether to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for not releasing audio recordings of a special counsel interview with President Joe Biden. The Justice Department has provided a transcript, but the White House claims executive privilege over the recordings.

Reuters | Updated: 12-06-2024 21:31 IST | Created: 12-06-2024 21:31 IST
House GOP Pushes Contempt Vote Against Attorney General Over Biden Tapes
Attorney General Merrick Garland

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives was planning to vote on Wednesday on whether to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over audio recordings of a special counsel interview with Democratic President Joe Biden. The Department of Justice said it has already turned over a transcript of the interview, which set off a political firestorm in February when Special Counsel Robert Hur released a report describing Biden, 81, as a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

The White House has asserted that the recordings are covered by executive privilege, and a vote by the House to hold Garland in contempt would put the Justice Department in the awkward position of having to decide whether to prosecute its own leader. It is not required to take up the charges. With Democrats expected to vote in lockstep against the contempt charge, it was unclear whether House Speaker Mike Johnson had secured enough Republican support to pass the measure.

A procedural vote that advanced the measure passed by the thinnest possible margin, 208-207. Lawmakers sometimes support opening debate on legislation even if they do not plan to vote for the bill. "Transcripts alone are not sufficient evidence of the state of the president's memory," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan said as debate opened.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, the senior Democrat on the panel, countered that Republicans were on a "single-minded quest to follow every right-wing conspiracy theory in the vain hope that it might lead to some evidence of wrongdoing." Hur had investigated Biden after classified documents dating to his time as vice president from 2009-2017 were found improperly stored in his home and office, and said that he had declined to prosecute the president, both because he had cooperated with the probe and because he would present a sympathetic face to a jury.

Biden's rival in the Nov. 5 election, Republican Donald Trump, has been criminally charged for mishandling classified documents after his 2017-2021 term in the White House, though unlike Biden, Trump refused requests to return the documents. Congressional Democrats have alleged that Republicans want the audio to use in campaign ads for Trump.

Garland has repeatedly accused House Republicans of impugning the Justice Department's integrity and pushing false narratives that could put career civil servants in danger. "There have been a series of unprecedented and, frankly, unfounded attacks on the Justice Department," Garland told reporters in May. "We have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the committees get responses to their legitimate requests, but this is not one."

Trump, who was convicted in May by a jury for falsifying business records, faces three state and federal criminal cases, including one centered around his own alleged mishandling of classified documents.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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