Contempt Motion For Attorney General Merrick Garland On Tap This Week

Contempt Motion For Attorney General Merrick Garland On Tap This Week

Republican leaders in Congress want to censure Attorney General Merrick Garland for refusing to turn over an audio copy of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. A motion to hold Garland in contempt of Congress has been teed up and could get a vote this week.

Last month, President Biden asserted executive privilege over the audio recording, basically shielding the Attorney General from any criminal exposure he might face for not handing it over. But that hasn’t stopped GOP leaders from going after him and hasn’t kept Garland from insisting -- with or without the president's assertion of executive privilege -- that he’s doing the right thing.

"We have made clear that we will not provide audio recordings," Attorney General Garland told members of the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing three weeks ago.

But the committee's chairman, Jim Jordan (R-OH), said the Department of Justice was legally obligated to provide the recording.

"Attorney General Garland's willful refusal to comply with our subpoena constitutes contempt of Congress," Rep. Jordan told the committee, in prepared remarks.

Jordan's Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee both approved, along party lines, motions advancing the contempt report to the full House.

The audio recording in question is of the interview Special Counsel Robert Hur did with President Biden regarding mishandled classified documents. Hur concluded President Biden's actions did not warrant criminal charges, but his report grabbed the attention of Biden's critics in that it detailed alleged lapses of memory on Biden's part: not remembering exactly when he served as Vice President or when his son Beau died.

President Biden and the White House have pushed back strongly on such characterizations, saying they are false,

But Rep. Jordan and his colleagues wanted the interview for their ongoing impeachment inquiry of the President, and they received a full transcript of it.

"Yeah, but they want the recording because you can’t get all the nuance," said Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK4) in a recent interview.

At the time of the interview, before the two committees voted (along party lines) to advance the contempt report, Rep. Cole didn't say whether the thought Garland should be held in contempt but did say he should cooperate fully with those requesting the audio.

"I think they’re well within their rights to ask for full exposure of the deal," Cole said. "I mean, why not -- what are they worried about?"

Many Democrats worry the recording, if released, would be used by Republicans purely for political purposes.

"They want the video for Donald Trump's campaign commercials," said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) at the Judiciary Committee hearing.

Garland says releasing the audio could harm future investigations by scaring off potential witnesses who might be worried their interviews would be broadcast to Congress and to the American public.

"We have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the committees get responses to their legitimate requests," Garland told reporters, "but this is not one."

The contempt motion is scheduled to be heard in the Rules Committee on Tuesday.