Democrats Criticize Republican-Inspired Vote on Contempt for Attorney General

June 11, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Democrats Criticize Republican-Inspired Vote on Contempt for Attorney General
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, March 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are blasting Republicans ahead of their planned vote this week in the House to hold U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt.

Garland has refused to turn over audio tapes of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Joe Biden about classified documents found in his garage.

Hur said in his written report that Biden suffered from a poor memory, apparently as a result of his advanced age.

Some Republicans are saying Biden’s mental decline indicates he is unfit to be president. They say the audio tapes could help prove it.

Republicans who have been investigating Biden also say he uses the presidency to benefit his family financially.

Republicans are “attempting to hold the attorney general in contempt based on meritless and preposterous claims of obstruction,” Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., wrote in a memo to fellow Democrats on the House Oversight Committee.

The vote could come as soon as Wednesday. It was advanced to the full House after the House Oversight Committee approved the contempt of Congress citation last month. 

Raskin’s memo says Republicans are “desperate to blame someone — anyone — for the utter failure” of their effort to impeach Biden and have “contrived an allegation that Attorney General Merrick Garland has impeded” their investigation of the president.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee also approved a contempt citation against Garland.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, joined criticisms of Republicans.

“So, what do our Republican friends do when an investigation turns up short? Simply put, they engage in fantasy,” Nadler said.

“The [Republican] chairman [of the Judiciary Committee] wants to make it seem like he uncovered some wrongdoing by the attorney general,” Nadler said. “In reality, the attorney general and [Justice Department] have been fully responsive to this committee in every way that might be material to their long-dead impeachment inquiry.”

Garland appointed Hur as special counsel last year to investigate Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents while he was the vice president during the Obama administration.

Hur’s report after interviewing Biden said he found “evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”

The report added that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter … even if there was no policy against charging a sitting president.”

Hur wrote that Biden was unlikely to be found guilty at a trial because he “would likely present himself to a jury … as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Garland released a transcript of the special counsel’s interview with the president to Congress. 

He explained his refusal to release the audio tape by saying it was part of a Justice Department investigation that was exempted from public disclosure requirements. Allowing the release could inhibit the willingness of witnesses to speak with government attorneys if they believed audio tapes of interviews would become public, Garland said.

“I view contempt as a serious matter. But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations. I will not be intimidated,” Garland said last week during a combative House Judiciary Committee hearing.

In addition, the Biden administration invoked executive privilege to block the audio tapes. The privilege allows a presidential administration to maintain confidential communications if public disclosure would impair governmental functions. 

Garland’s explanation angered Republicans. They said it indicated the attorney general believed he was excluded from the accountability to Congress required of everyone else.

Their criticisms continued this week as they prepared for the contempt vote in the House.

Their report to the House recommending a contempt citation says the audio recordings “are of superior evidentiary value.”

“The verbal nuances in President Biden’s answer about his mishandling of classified information would assist the committee’s inquiry” into potential abuses of power, the Republican report says.

A contempt citation would be the equivalent of a referral to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. Garland oversees the Justice Department, which has given no indication it would be willing to prosecute him.

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