DOJ won’t prosecute Merrick Garland after House GOP holds him in contempt over Biden recordings

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department confirmed Friday, as expected, that Attorney General Merrick Garland will not face charges after House Republicans voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide tapes audio of President Joe Biden that is protected by executive privilege.

“As you know, the President asserted executive privilege and ordered the Attorney General not to disclose documents subpoenaed by the House Committees on the Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability (committees) related to investigation led by Special Counsel Robert K. Hur,” the assistant district attorney said. Gen. Carlos Felipe Uriarte wrote Friday in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has accused House Republicans of politicizing the justice system.File Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

“The Department’s long-standing position is that we will not prosecute an official for contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information subject to a presidential assertion of executive privilege, as explained in our May 16, 2024, letter to the committees,” a writes Uriarte. . “In all administrations of both political parties, we have consistently adhered to the position that ‘the contempt of Congress statute was not intended to apply and could not constitutionally be applied to an executive branch official who claimed the executive privilege of the president.”

The letter said then-Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross were not prosecuted after the House voted to convict them of contempt in 2019. In 2022, the Department of Justice also declined to prosecute former Trump White House officials Mark Meadows and Dan. Scavino, who did not cooperate with Jan. 6 committee subpoenas.

Congress already has a transcript of Biden’s interview with Hur, which investigated the president’s handling of classified documents. Hur declined to prosecute Biden, writing in his report that one reason for not pursuing the case was that Biden would be sympathetic to a jury because he might present himself as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur also said the evidence his team gathered “does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Garland wrote last month that giving the recordings to Congress “would raise an unacceptable risk of preventing the Department from conducting similar wide-ranging investigations into criminal capabilities — particularly investigations in which the voluntary cooperation of White House officials is extremely important. He told reporters that releasing audio recordings would “harm our ability to successfully pursue sensitive investigations.”

Garland pushed back against Republican attacks on the judiciary and the DOJ, calling them “unprecedented” and “baseless” during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee this month. The Justice Department, he said, “will not back down in its defense of democracy.

In a statement on the Justice Department’s decision, Johnson said he would certify the contempt reports to DCUS counsel and enforce Garland’s subpoena.

“It is unfortunately predictable that the Biden administration’s Justice Department will not pursue Garland for defying congressional subpoenas, even though the department has aggressively pursued Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for the same thing,” Johnson continued in the statement. “This is yet another example of the two-tiered justice system that the Biden administration is offering us. »

Leave a Comment