Republicans Threaten Contempt Vote Against Merrick Garland Over Robert Hur Material

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WASHINGTON — House Republicans are threatening to hold U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress if he doesn’t hand over material from the Justice Department’s recent investigation of President Joe Biden.

In a letter to Garland on Monday, House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) demanded the Justice Department hand over audio of former special counsel Robert Hur interviewing Biden about his mishandling of classified documents.

“If you fail to do so, the Committees will consider taking further action, such as the invocation of contempt of Congress proceedings,” the letter says.

In their initial subpoena for Hur’s investigative material last month, Republicans especially wanted the transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden, since Hur said the president came off as “an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

The Justice Department handed over the transcript shortly before Hur testified before Jordan’s committee, but Republicans are now insisting they also get audio of the interview plus audio and transcripts of Hur’s interviews with Mark Zwonitzer, the ghostwriter of Biden’s 2017 memoir.

The transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden showed the president struggling to recall the timeline of his son Beau’s death in 2015 and his subsequent decision not to run for president, with aides frequently chiming in to help him answer questions. Partly because of Biden’s memory issues, Hur’s report recommended no charges against Biden for retaining classified material after his vice presidency.

During his testimony, Hur refused to elaborate on his view of Biden’s memory. When a Republican asked if Biden was senile, for instance, Hur simply said he hadn’t said so in his report.

A contempt of Congress vote typically results in a referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, meaning Republicans would essentially be asking Garland to prosecute himself. Federal prosecutors often decline to press charges for contempt or in response to criminal referrals from lawmakers from the opposite party.

Still, a successful contempt vote against Garland might be more useful for House Republicans than an unsuccessful impeachment vote against Biden. Republicans have struggled to prove their corruption allegations against the president and have been looking for off-ramps from their impeachment inquiry, such as referring Biden family members to the Justice Department for prosecution.

Recently, Comer speculated about making criminal referrals to a future Justice Department once again controlled by Donald Trump.

“If the Merrick Garland Department of Justice will not hold this family accountable, then maybe if Trump wins president, then a Trey Gowdy Department of Justice can hold this family accountable for the wrongdoing,” Comer said Sunday in an interview with Fox News host Trey Gowdy.

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor and congressman, said he hoped to remain as a Fox News host.

“Chairman, my wife cannot live on the salary that the attorney general makes, but thank you,” Gowdy said. “I love being a prosecutor, but I also love working for Fox because I get to talk to you.”