House votes to hold AG Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress

(The Center Square) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Wednesday to hold United States Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress over Garland’s refusal to turn over audio recordings of interviews between President Joe Biden and former special counsel Robert Hur related to a classified documents investigation.

Hur declined to press charges against Biden despite finding that the president improperly held unto classified documents after his days as vice president under former President Barack Obama and shared government secrets with his ghostwriter, as The Center Square previously reported.

House Republicans argued that Garland should be held in contempt for refusing to comply with a Congressional subpoena, while Democrats called the accusations political.

U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar spoke at a news conference with other House Democratic leaders on Wednesday before the vote took place.

“This is all just an effort to satisfy the former president, who has asked them to do something, to do anything to distract from his own legal issues.” Aguilar said.

During debates on the House Floor on Wednesday, several House Republicans spoke about the issue. Rep. Jim Jordan slammed Hur’s decision to not prosecute Biden, despite the DOJ prosecuting former President Donald Trump in a separate classified documents investigation in Florida.

“So we have motive, an $8 million motive, we have elements of the crime, knowingly keeping classified information, knowingly disclosing classified information, but despite all this special counsel Hur declined to prosecute …recommend prosecution for President Biden because Joe Biden is quote ‘a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.’” Jordan said.

Hur’s report clearing Biden of any charges found evidence that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen” but said the evidence “does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The report also said a jury would be sympathetic to Biden because of his memory loss.

“Given Mr. Biden’s limited precision and recall during his interviews with his ghostwriter and with our office, jurors may hesitate to place too much evidentiary weight on a single eight-word utterance to his ghostwriter about finding classified documents in Virginia, in the absence of other, more direct evidence,” according to the report.

Jordan said Congress deserves the audiotapes of the interviews so it can examine all of the evidence.

“They said we’ll be impartial, independent arbiters of the facts. OK, maybe so, but what we do know is this – one former president is being charged, Joe Biden’s not being. We think we’re entitled, actually we know we’re entitled to all the evidence and the best evidence, and the transcripts alone are not sufficient evidence in the state of the President’s memory,” said Jordan.

In a statement after the vote, Garland called the contempt charge “partisan.”

“It is deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon,” Garland said. “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.

Rep. Dan Bishop brought up the importance of considering “demeanor evidence” during the debate on the House floor.

“This matter is simple, and in its simplicity is the clarity of its appropriate resolution. The audio recording of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur is demeanor evidence. Demeanor is one’s outward manner, a way of conducting oneself,” said Bishop.

“And in some circumstances, demeanor evidence is the most probative, powerful evidence that can be heard.” Bishop said.

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