Garland in contempt: ‘If the DOJ has not indicted him by June 25, he will be forced to produce recordings or be held by Sergeant at Arms’

House Republicans voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress on Wednesday, a rare rebuke of the nation’s top law enforcement official.

In a 216-207 party-line vote, GOP lawmakers followed through on their warnings after Garland refused to turn over audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur who conducted a probe into his mishandling of classified documents.

“Today, the House took a significant step in maintaining the integrity of our oversight process and the responsibilities by holding Attorney General Garland in contempt of Congress. This decision was not made lightly but is essential to ensure transparency and accountability within the Special Counsel’s office,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said in a statement.

“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. “Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight of the Special Counsel’s work and specifically Special Counsel Hur’s determination to prosecute President Biden for the clear violation of the law.”

The recordings of Biden, who Hur didn’t prosecute because jurors would likely view him as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and decline to convict, likely portrayed the octogenarian leader in a very unflattering manner.

So the attorney general came up with an excuse that they could be manipulated through AI to create “deep fakes” as the reason why he refused to provide them to Congress which some might reasonably view as an overtly political move in an election year.

A defiant Garland responded to the vote with his own statement, slamming House Republicans.

“It is 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,” he said. “I will always stand up for this Department, its employees, and its vital mission to defend our democracy.”

While holding Garland in contempt makes him only the third attorney general in U.S. history to hold that distinction, there is unlikely to be any further consequences from the Justice Department which he controls and will almost certainly refuse to prosecute its own leader.

One House Republican, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) vowed to follow up the vote with action if the DOJ refused to act.

“The House just voted to hold Garland in Contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas. If the DOJ has not indicted him by June 25, I will call a vote to hold him in inherent contempt of Congress, and he will be forced to produce the recordings or be held by the Sergeant at Arms,” Luna wrote in a post to X.

Garland joins President Donald J. Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr and Eric Holder who served under Barack Obama as the AG’s who have been held in contempt of Congress.

Chris Donaldson

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