House Republicans vote to hold Garland in contempt over Biden interview audio

Garland, in response, called the vote "deeply disappointing."

June 12, 2024, 4:47 PM

House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon passed a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audio of President Joe Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur on his handling of classified documents.

The final vote was 216 to 207. Rep. David Joyce of Ohio was the only Republican who voted against the contempt resolution.

Speaker Mike Johnson called the outcome "a significant step in maintaining the integrity of our oversight processes and responsibilities."

"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 in a statement.

Garland, in response, said it was "deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon."

"Today's vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department's need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the Committees," Garland said in a statement. "I will always stand up for this Department, its employees, and its vital mission to defend our democracy."

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaks at a press conference following a House Republican conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

While the Department of Justice has made a transcript of Hur's interview with Biden available to the GOP-led committees, House Republicans argue the audio tapes are necessary to their stalled impeachment investigation into the president.

"The Committees need the audio tapes to verify the accuracy of the written transcripts given this White House has been known to heavily edit the President's statements," Johnson said. "This is a simple matter -- we have the transcript, and we need the audio."

The contempt resolution directs the House speaker to refer the case to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution.

Before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Garland continued to defend his decision to not turn over audio tapes of the interview, over which President Biden assert executive privilege.

"I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy," Garland said at the hearing.

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Department of Justice, June 4, 2024, on Capitol Hill.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Democrats have also come to Garland's defense, describing the GOP push to hold him in contempt a politically-motivated endeavor.

"This isn't really about a policy disagreement with the DOJ, this is about feeding the MAGA base after 18 months of investigations that have produced failure after failure," Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in testimony Tuesday before the House Rules Committee.

Joyce, the sole Republican to vote against the resolution, also suggested it was a partisan act.

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

In the past, Congress has held Cabinet officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a House subpoena, including Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in 2019 and then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012.

Congress held Peter Navarro, a former top trade adviser in the Trump administration, in contempt of Congress in 2022 for defying records and testimony to the now defunct House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Navarro was recently sentenced to four months behind bars.

Steve Bannon, a Trump ally who was also held in contempt of Congress in 2022 for not complying with the Jan. 6 select committee, has been ordered to report to jail on July 1.

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