House Republicans vote to hold Garland in contempt over Biden interview audio

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(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon passed a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audio of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur on his handling of classified documents.

The final vote was 216 to 207.

Earlier Wednesday, Speaker Mike Johnson projected optimism it would get the votes despite uncertainty given the party’s razor-thin majority.

“I do think the contempt of Merrick Garland will pass on the floor, and we’re anxious to have that happen,” Johnson said at his weekly news conference alongside GOP leadership.

MORE: Biden asserts executive privilege over audio of interview with special counsel Hur
The speaker said Garland’s defiance of a subpoena for the audio is a “problem under Article I” and that lawmakers must “defend” the Constitution and the authority of Congress to conduct oversight.

“The attorney general doesn’t get to decide whether he hides the tape,” Johnson said.

Two House committees — Oversight and Judiciary — voted along party-lines last month to advance the report recommending that Garland be held in contempt.

The resolution passed on Wednesday directs the speaker of the House to refer the case to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution.

While the Department of Justice has made a transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden available to the GOP-led committees, House Republicans argue the audio tapes are necessary to their stalled impeachment investigation into the president.

Before the Judiciary committee last week, Garland continued to defend his decision to not turn over audio tapes of the interview, over which President Biden assert executive privilege.

The attorney general said lawmakers don’t have a legitimate purpose for seeking the tape, and expressed concern that the sensitive information could harm the integrity of future investigations.

“I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy,” Garland said at the hearing.

Democrats have also come to Garland’s defense, describing the GOP push to hold him in contempt a politically-motivated endeavor.

“This isn’t really about a policy disagreement with the DOJ, this is about feeding the MAGA base after 18 months of investigations that have produced failure after failure,” Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in testimony Tuesday before the House Rules Committee.

In the past, Congress has held Cabinet officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a House subpoena, including Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in 2019 and then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012.

Congress held Peter Navarro, a former top trade adviser in the Trump administration, in contempt of Congress in 2022 for defying records and testimony to the now defunct House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Navarro was recently sentenced to four months behind bars.

Steve Bannon, a Trump ally who was also held in contempt of Congress in 2022 for not complying with the Jan. 6 select committee, has been ordered to report to jail on July 1.

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