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Defying GOP threats of contempt, DOJ declines to hand over audio of Bidens interview with Robert Hur

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(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department informed House Republicans on Monday it has no plans to hand over an audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with former special counsel Robert Hur, despite GOP threats to possibly hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for continuing to withhold the records.

“Our efforts at cooperation prove that we are, and continue to be, willing to do our part to show the American people that the officials who serve them can work together productively in the public interest while avoiding unnecessary conflict,” senior DOJ official Carlos Uriarte said in a letter Monday to House Judiciary and Oversight chairmen Jim Jordan and James Comer. “Yet the Committees have responded with escalation and threats of criminal contempt.”

Jordan and Comer subpoenaed the audio of Biden’s interview following the release of Hur’s report in February, which in addition to examining Biden’s handling of classified materials while out of office also included embarrassing details about his age and lack of recall.

Hur ultimately concluded after a yearlong investigation that no criminal charges were warranted in the case, a decision he defended in a hearing on Capitol Hill last month.

On the day Hur testified before Congress about his report, the administration released to the House Judiciary Committee the full transcript of Biden’s interview.

But Comer and Jordan continued to press DOJ for audio of the interview, as well as the transcript and audio recordings for Hur’s interview with Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer.

As part of their response Monday, the DOJ said it was providing transcripts of Zwonitzer’s interviews to the House but would continue to withhold the audio recordings, in part because they argue it could serve to deter future witnesses in special counsel investigations from providing the extensive cooperation provided by both Biden and Zwonitzer.

“The Committees have already received the extraordinary accommodation of the transcripts, which gives you the information you say you need,” Uriarte said. “To go further by producing the audio files would compound the likelihood that future prosecutors will be unable to secure this level of cooperation.”

“They might have a harder time obtaining consent to an interview at all. It is clearly not in the public interest to render such cooperation with prosecutors and investigators less likely in the future,” Uriarte continued.

It’s not immediately clear whether Jordan and Comer will now take the step of initiating contempt proceedings against Garland.

In his testimony last month, Hur did notably point to both the transcript and audio of his interview with Biden as instructive to his ultimate decision not to pursue criminal charges against the president. Though he would not specifically weigh in on whether or not Congress should have access to audio recordings related to his report when pressed by Rep. Jordan.

“Chairman, what I can tell you is that my assessment that went into my conclusions that I described, my report was based not solely on the transcript, it was based on all of the evidence, including the audio recordings,” Hur said.

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