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House Republicans eye Garland contempt vote over refusal to turn over Biden special counsel interview audio

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(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans this week plans to move ahead with a full chamber vote on holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audio of President Joe Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur on his handling of classified documents.

The Rules Committee will meet Tuesday afternoon to mark up the contempt resolution. If that passes, the resolution then heads to the full House for a vote.

The vote has been in limbo since two House committees — Oversight and Judiciary — voted along party-lines last month to advance a report recommending that Garland be held in contempt.

But it was not clear if Republicans had enough support to clear the measure with their razor-thin majority. Regardless, GOP leadership is plowing ahead this week with a vote in which House Speaker Mike Johnson can afford only two defections if all members are voting and present.

The speaker said in recent weeks he expects the contempt resolution will ultimately clear the House.

While the Department of Justice has made a transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden available to the GOP-led committees, House Republicans argue the audio tapes are necessary to their investigation into the president.

“The purpose of getting the audio tapes of the Biden interview is because the committees have to do their legislation work. They use the audio to evaluate the work and the accuracy of the special counsel. We have the transcript; there should be no surprises here,” Johnson said at a news conference last month.

Before the Judiciary committee last week, Garland continued to defend his decision to not turn over audio tapes of the interview, over which President Biden asserts executive privilege.

“I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending our democracy,” Garland said at the hearing.

The resolution, if passed, would direct the speaker of the House to refer the case to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for possible criminal prosecution.

In the past, Congress has held Cabinet officials in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a House subpoena, including Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in 2019 and then-Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012.

Congress held Peter Navarro, a former top trade adviser in the Trump administration, in contempt of Congress in 2022 for defying records and testimony to the now defunct House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Navarro was recently sentenced to four months behind bars.

Steve Bannon, a Trump ally who was also held in contempt of Congress in 2022 for not complying with the Jan. 6 select committee, has been ordered to report to jail on July 1.

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