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House GOP details case for contempt of Congress against Garland

Two committees set markups on the attorney general over audio from Biden special counsel probe

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland waits to testify during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing last month.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland waits to testify during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies hearing last month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Two Republican-led House panels on Thursday plan to consider whether to recommend holding the head of the Justice Department in contempt of Congress.

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday outlined a contempt of Congress case against Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a report, which said the DOJ has not handed over audio and video recordings from a special counsel investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified materials.

The Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Accountability Committee issued subpoenas in February to Garland to compel the production of audio recordings of former special counsel Robert K. Hur’s interviews with Biden and a ghostwriter who worked with Biden, according to the report.

The Judiciary and Oversight panels have announced separate markups related to recommending that Garland be held in contempt of Congress.

A proposed resolution included in the Judiciary Committee report includes language that the information about Garland would be sent to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The report resolution language also would direct House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to “otherwise take all appropriate action to enforce the subpoena.”

The Judiciary Committee report states that audio recordings are of “superior evidentiary value regarding the specific issues the Committees are investigating.”

“To date, the Department has refused to produce the audio recordings, despite not having invoked any privilege to justify its failure to comply with the subpoena,” the report stated.

“While the text of the Department-created transcripts purport to reflect the words uttered during these interviews, they do not reflect important verbal context, such as tone or tenor, or nonverbal context, such as pauses or pace of delivery,” the report states.

The report says the Judiciary panel subpoenaed the materials for multiple reasons, including to find out if there’s “sufficient grounds exist to draft articles of impeachment against President Biden.”

“These audio recordings are important to our investigation of President Biden’s willful retention of classified documents and his fitness to be President of the United States,” Rep. James R. Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the House oversight panel, said in a press release. “There must be consequences for refusing to comply with lawful congressional subpoenas and we will move to hold Attorney General Garland in contempt of Congress.”

Republicans have repeatedly highlighted Hur’s findings after the special counsel report included a discussion of how Biden’s memory was “significantly limited” during both the interview with investigators and a 2017 interview with a ghostwriter where Biden discussed holding onto classified material.

The special counsel determined that Biden should not face criminal charges. The report did say that investigators found Biden retained classified materials after serving as vice president.

Democrats have harshly criticized Hur for his conclusions about Biden’s mental acuity.

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