Attorney General Garland Held in Contempt of Congress for Refusing To Release ‘Poor Memory’ Audio of Biden 

Two of Trump’s loyalists, Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon, have been sentenced to prison for contempt after being prosecuted by the Biden Justice Department. Their treatment raises the specter of possible retaliation should Trump return to power.

Attorney General Garland testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill, June 4. AP

Attorney General Garland has been held in contempt of Congress on a party-line vote after he refused to turn over audio recordings of President Biden’s interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur, who described the commander in chief as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Mr. Hur’s assessment created a firestorm of debate over Mr. Biden’s fitness for office.

Mr. Garland refused to hand over audio recording of the interviews, instead releasing edited transcripts that elided pauses, stammering, and other moments that could provide insight into the president’s mental fitness. The Justice Department claimed that releasing the audio would have a chilling effect on future witnesses deciding on whether to cooperate. Republicans countered that Mr. Garland was seeking to cover up for his boss.

The contempt resolution, authored by the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, passed the House narrowly on Tuesday afternoon. In total, 216 voted to hold Mr. Garland in contempt and 207 voted against, with only one Republican voting against. The resolution will now be sent to the Justice Department. 

Contempt of Congress resolutions essentially act as recommended indictments for federal prosecutors, and the House acts as a grand jury. In the past, several government officials have been prosecuted after being held in contempt of Congress, including, most recently, President Trump’s trade advisor Peter Navarro, who is serving a four-month prison sentence, and Steve Bannon, who will report to prison on July 1. 

Both men, who were close aides to Trump, were prosecuted by the Biden Justice Department for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena from the Select January 6 Committee investigating Trump’s role in the unrest at the Capitol. Mr. Navarro, 74, is currently incarcerated at a federal internment facility  in Florida while Mr. Bannon, 70, was recently ordered to report to prison next month.

Several Trump allies have been prosecuted in recent years. Allen Weisselberg, 76, who is the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, is now imprisoned on New York City’s notorious Rikers Island, while prosecutors in Georgia and Arizona have filed criminal charges against members of Trump’s inner circle such as Mayor Giuliani, 80, and Mark Meadows, a relatively spry 64, who is a former chief of staff.

The sheer number of elderly Trump aides — not to mention Trump, 77, himself — being  prosecuted by Democrats has caused an outcry from prominent figures on the right, some of whom have called for similar prosecutions of Democrats should Trump return to power. Mr. Garland could be a prime target.

Mr. Garland refused to turn over the audio recording of Mr. Biden’s interview with Mr. Hur after the White House invoked executive privilege over the audio.

The chairman of the Oversight Committee who helped spearhead this effort to hold Mr. Garland in contempt, Congressman James Comer, has said repeatedly that while his Republican majority does not have the numbers to impeach the president or the attorney general, they do have the power to prepare what could become indictments brought in 2025 by a Republican attorney general.

“When President Trump returns to the White House, it’s critical that the new leadership at the DOJ have everything they need to prosecute the Biden Crime Family and deliver swift justice,” Mr. Comer said when he first threatened criminal referrals against the president’s only surviving son, Hunter Biden, and the president’s younger brother, James Biden. The Oversight Committee recently referred both men to the Justice Department for prosecution for allegedly lying under oath about their business dealings trading off the Biden name.

Mr. Garland is highly unlikely to be prosecuted until he leaves office. According to a memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel first obtained by the Hill, the sitting attorney general may not be prosecuted, regardless of his or her party. 

“For nearly seven decades and across presidential administrations of both parties, the Executive Branch has taken the position that the criminal contempt of Congress statute … does not apply to Executive Branch officials who do not comply with a congressional subpoena based on a presidential assertion of executive privilege,” the memo, which was issued in May, states.

“Consistent with this longstanding position, no U.S. Attorney has pursued criminal contempt charges against an Executive Branch official asserting the President’s claim of executive privilege,” it reads. 

When asked after his Manhattan conviction if he intended to direct prosecutors to investigate his political rivals, Trump made it clear he was open to the possibility. “It’s a terrible path that they’re leading us to,” Trump said of the prosecutors currently coming after him. “It’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them.”

The New York Sun

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