Republican-Led House Votes to Hold Garland in Contempt Over Biden Audio

Peter G. Forest/Getty Images
Peter G. Forest/Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 216 to 207 to hold Merrick Garland in contempt on Congress on Wednesday, a largely symbolic move sparked by Republican ire over the attorney general’s refusal to turn over subpoenaed recordings.

The audio in question is an interview that President Joe Biden gave to the special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents. (The prosecutor, Robert Hur, declined to seek criminal charges against Biden in February.)

Just one Republican, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, crossed the aisle to vote “no” alongside the chamber’s Democrats. Joyce, a former prosecutor, said afterward that he could not support “a resolution that would further politicize our judicial system to score political points.” Seven Democrats and one Republican did not vote on the measure.

House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters that he was “pleased with the outcome” of the vote. Asked by CNN if he felt Garland should be prosecuted for failing to comply with the subpoena, the speaker said he believed the House had sent “an important message,” adding, “We’ll see what happens next.”

The resolution will see the matter referred on to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for investigation and possible criminal prosecution, which will almost certainly not occur.

Garland, for his part, 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,” he continued in a statement. “I will always stand up for this Department, its employees, and its vital mission to defend our democracy.”

In an op-ed for The Washington Post on Tuesday morning, Garland said that his office would not be intimidated by Republican showmanship.

“It is absurd and dangerous that public servants, many of whom risk their lives every day, are being threatened for simply doing their jobs and adhering to the principles that have long guided the Justice Department’s work,” he wrote.

It marks the third time in a dozen years that a sitting attorney general has been found in contempt by the House, most of them over politically charged cases.

Republicans, who dominate the House, have argued that the Hur recordings are necessary to their impeachment inquiry into the president, which has yet to produce any concrete evidence of wrongdoing and is largely running on fumes.

The Justice Department, which turned over transcripts of the Biden interview, has stood behind its decision not to turn over the audio, arguing that to do so would set a dangerous precedent. Biden asserted executive privilege last month to block House investigators from accessing the audio. Hours later, furious Republicans announced they would recommend Garland be held in contempt.

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