Lawmakers advance contempt charge for US attorney general

US Attorney General Merrick Garland hit out at 'baseless, personal and dangerous' attacks

A panel of US lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress over the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over audio of President Joe Biden’s questioning in a criminal investigation.

The move — seen as symbolic, since Garland’s own officials would ultimately decide whether to press charges — is the latest escalation in hostilities between allies of Republican Donald Trump and the White House ahead of November’s election.

Republicans in Congress have been demanding the tapes of Biden’s October deposition with Special Counsel Robert Hur, who interviewed the president for his inquiry into classified documents Biden improperly retained after he left the vice presidency.

Hur concluded in February that charges were not warranted but made the politically explosive claim that Biden had “limited precision and recall” and would likely be seen by a jury as “a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

Members of the Republican-led House Rules Committee voted Tuesday along party lines to advance to the full chamber a resolution holding Garland in contempt and referring his case for prosecution. A vote is expected before the weekend.

“If the attorney general chooses to defy Congress and not produce the audio recording, he must face the consequences of his actions,” said James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

The Justice Department and Democrats in Congress say officials cooperated by turning over transcripts of the interview and accuse Republicans of demanding the audio simply because they want to use it to damage Biden in campaign ads.

The move comes as an impeachment inquiry into Biden over allegations of corruption flounders following a series of hearings led by House Republicans that failed to demonstrate any wrongdoing by the Democratic president.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee circulated a memo characterizing the contempt proceedings as a “transparent effort to find a scapegoat for the embarrassing failure of this sham impeachment effort.”

Garland warned in an op-ed published Tuesday by The Washington Post that threats against the Justice Department and its employees had ramped up in recent weeks and the department was “under attack like never before.”

He hit out at “baseless, personal and dangerous” attacks on the department, criticizing Republican threats to defund investigations into Trump.

Last week, he defended the Justice Department at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee against what he called “repeated attacks” and conspiracy theories floated by Republican lawmakers.

Garland said a transcript of Hur’s five-hour interview with Biden was released publicly, and “releasing the audio would chill cooperation with the department in future investigations.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.