House Prepares Vote on Holding Garland in Contempt for Refusing To Hand Over ‘Elderly’ Biden Interview

It is highly unlikely that the justice department would take up the charges, though it could be dug up under a new Trump administration.

AP/Jacquelyn Martin
Attorney General Garland during a House Judiciary Committee hearing, September 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill. AP/Jacquelyn Martin

The House will vote as soon as Friday on whether to hold Attorney General Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the audio recordings of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with President Biden and his ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer, which caused a firestorm after Mr. Hur described the president as “a sympathetic well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.” 

The Department of Justice almost certainly would not act on the resolution, though a Trump administration could were President Trump to win the election. 

The DOJ has for months stated that because the House Oversight and Judiciary committees already have transcripts of the interviews — which were conducted in October just after the Hamas terror attacks on Israel — then they have no reason to hear the audio. On two separate occasions, the department has said there is no real legislative purpose for Republicans to have the recordings. 

“We are therefore concerned that the Committees are disappointed not because you didn’t receive information, but because you did. We urge the Committees to avoid conflict rather than seek it,” the justice department said in a letter to the committee chairmen, Congressman James Comer and Jim Jordan, in April. 

On Thursday, the administration went one step further than its past refusals by asserting executive privilege to block the release of the audio recordings. “Because of the President’s longstanding commitment to protecting the integrity, effectiveness, and independence of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement investigations, he has decided to assert executive privilege over the recordings,” the White House counsel, Edward Siskel, wrote in a letter to Messrs. Comer and Jordan. 

Republicans counter that it’s overwhelmingly in the public interest to know if their president is suffering from the cognitive issues Mr. Hur described. The House, therefore, will vote on the contempt resolution. 

“President Biden and his advisors clearly fear releasing the audio recordings of his interview because it will reaffirm to the American people that President Biden’s mental state is in decline,” the committee said in a statement. “Today’s Hail Mary from the White House changes nothing for our committee.”

The Judiciary Committee approved the contempt resolution on a party-line vote. 

Beyond the contempt resolution, the Judiciary Committee also released a report written by the Republican majority that details Mr. Garland’s stonewalling and explains their need for the recordings. They also say they want to see if there are any discrepancies between the audio recordings and the transcript. 

“The audio recordings would offer unique and important information to advance the Committees’ impeachment inquiry and inform the Judiciary Committee as to the need for legislative reforms to the operations of the Department or the conduct of Special Counsel investigations,” the report states. “Where audio recordings and transcripts diverge, because of ‘inflection in a speaker’s voice or by inaccuracies in the transcript,’ the audio recordings, not the transcripts, control.”

Mr. Hur’s report found that the president did, in fact, keep classified information in his Delaware home and in his Pennsylvania and Washington offices. The committees, in addition to seeking the recordings in order to assess the president’s mental fitness, have argued that the audio recordings would help them prove that the president was engaged in an “influence-peddling scheme.”

Mr. Biden was described by Mr. Hur in the report as being “an elderly man with a poor memory” who wasn’t a good target for criminal prosecution because a jury would sympathize with him.

One former House Freedom Caucus member, Congressman Ken Buck, says his old GOP colleagues just want to hear the audio recording because it will show Mr. Biden sounding elderly and feeble, which would be a gift to the Trump campaign. 

“It’s a political stunt,” Mr. Buck said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. “The transcript from President Biden’s testimony in front of Special Counsel Hur has been turned over. They have the material in front of them. What they’re looking for is President Biden’s voice so that it can be used by the Trump campaign in an election cycle. That’s just unnecessary.”

Mr. Buck went so far as to praise Mr. Garland for withstanding his colleagues’ investigations. “I give him a huge amount of credit here from the left for not redacting the report and withholding certain information that he released so that he would be fully transparent and the American people would have all the information,” he said. “Now, he’s getting attacked by the right for not releasing an audio tape that can be used in the campaign.”


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