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Justice Department won't bring charges against Attorney General Garland for contempt of Congress

The decision Friday comes as no surprise, as the DOJ has never followed up on prosecuting its own attorney general.
Merrick Garland
Posted at 2:12 PM, Jun 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice — which is headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland — has decided to not press charges against him after a Republican-led vote in the House of Representatives found him in contempt of Congress.

The decision Friday comes as no surprise, as the DOJ has never followed up on prosecuting its own attorney general.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 216-207 Wednesday to approve the contempt motion, with one Republican siding with Democrats in the attempt to reject it. The vote was in response to the Justice Department refusing to turn over audiotapes of President Joe Biden's interview with a special prosecutor over his alleged mishandling of classified documents during his time as vice president in the Obama administration.

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Garland slammed the vote as an attack on the Justice Department that was done for partisan political reasons.

"It is deeply disappointing that this House of Representatives has turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon," Garland said in a statement. "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. I will always stand up for this Department, its employees, and its vital mission to defend our democracy."

The investigation into President Biden ended earlier this year without any charges being brought against him, with special counsel Robert Hur issuing a controversial final report that described the 81-year-old president's memory as "poor" and having "significant limitations" that would have made it "difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him."

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Despite already having transcripts from Hur's interview with President Biden, House Republicans said they need the recordings because they may provide valuable information beyond what's in the transcripts. Democrats, meanwhile, called the decision political theater.

It's not just House Republicans who are after those audio recordings. A group of media organizations — including Scripps News parent company E.W. Scripps — have a lawsuit in federal court to try to get access to those recordings.

At this point it appears unlikely the tapes will see the light of day, as President Biden has invoked executive privilege over the recordings, ultimately protecting Garland from further investigation.