Republicans Dodging Subpoenas Vote to Hold Merrick Garland in Contempt

Republicans voted on Wednesday to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress over the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over audio recordings of interviews President Joe Biden gave to Special Counsel Robert Hur. The 216-207 vote came down largely on party lines.

In January of last year, Garland appointed Hur, a Donald Trump appointee, to lead the DOJ’s investigation into classified documents found at Biden’s home and office. The investigation took place amid a parallel probe into Trump’s own retention of classified documents that resulted in a criminal indictment against the former president. In February, Hur announced that the Justice Department would not be pursuing criminal charges against President Biden, with Hur describing him “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Hur claimed that Biden could not “remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?’).” Hur also wrote that Biden did not remember “even within several years” when his son Beau died.

The Biden administration condemned Hur’s characterizations of the president’s interviews, with Special Counsel to the President Richard Sauber and Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer writing that they “do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate.”

While House Republicans were provided full transcripts of Biden’s interviews with Hur, the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee demanded access to the full audio — a request the Justice Department refused. “Certain members of this committee, and the Oversight Committee, are seeking contempt as a means of obtaining — for no legitimate purpose — sensitive law enforcement information that could harm the integrity of future investigations,” Garland told the committee in testimony earlier this month.

“I will not be intimidated,” Garland told Republicans. “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.”

During floor debate ahead of Wednesday’s vote, Democrats pointed out that Republicans on the House Oversight Committee were themselves perfectly comfortable flouting subpoenas. “It’s rich beyond measure — like billionaire rich — to be asked to hold the attorney general in contempt by people who themselves received subpoenas to testify before the Jan. 6 Committee who never rendered a single document or a single minute to the testimony,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (R-Md.) told the floor, referencing a series of subpoenas the Jan 6. Committee issued to former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, as well as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), and Scott Perry (R-Pa.).

“Two of your last speakers are 750-plus days in defiance of a subpoena,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said. “So get real when [Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)] come to this floor and want to talk and get all righteous about subpoenas.”

“You start honoring your subpoenas, and we can talk about anyone else’s subpoenas,” Swalwell added.

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