Attorney General Merrick Garland held in contempt by House

Merrick Garland

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for refusing to turn over audio related to President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.

The vote was 216-207 to pass House Resolution 1292. By approving the resolution, the House basically recommended that Garland be prosecuted.

Garland became the third attorney in U.S. history -- and third in the past dozen years -- to be held in contempt by Congress.

It was the first time since 2019 that an attorney general was held in contempt, The Associated Press reported. That year, the Democrat-controlled Congress voted to hold Bill Barr in contempt for refusing to release documents related to a special counsel probe into Republican President Donald Trump.

In 2012, Eric Holder was held in contempt related to the gun-running operation called Operation Fast and Furious. Holder was the attorney general for President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

The Justice Department took no action against the attorney general in either case, according to the AP.

Special counsel Robert Hur spoke with Biden for several hours in October about his handling of the classified material. In his report, released in February, Hur said that Biden portrayed himself as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” which led to questions about the 81-year-old’s fitness to be president as he seeks a second term in the White House.

The House Judiciary and Oversight & Accountability committees’ chairmen -- Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer -- had ordered the Justice Department to surrender the audio tapes by early April. Garland’s refusal led to the movement to find him in contempt.

The Justice Department warned that releasing the tapes would lead to a dangerous precedent, and on the last day to comply with the subpoena, the White House blocked the release of the audio by invoking executive privilege.

Administration officials said Republicans in Congress only wanted the recordings “to chop them up” and used them for political purposes.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., called the contempt vote “essential to ensure transparency and accountability within the Special Counsel’s office,” The Washington Post reported.

“It is up to Congress -- not the Executive Branch -- to determine what materials it needs to conduct its own investigations, and there are consequences for refusing to comply with lawful Congressional subpoenas,” Johnson said.

Rep. Dave Joyce was the only Republican to vote against the measure, according to the newspaper.

“As a former prosecutor, I cannot in good conscience support a resolution that would further politicize our judicial system to score political points,” Joyce, R-Ohio, said in a written statement. “The American people expect Congress to work for them, solve policy problems, and prioritize good governance. Enough is enough.”

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