Garland Faces Contempt Proceedings Over Biden Interview Recordings

Merrick Garland August 2023 press conference | Source:


House committees have initiated contempt proceedings against Attorney General Merrick Garland due to his refusal to provide recordings of President Joe Biden’s interviews concerning classified documents. Despite subpoenas, Garland has only provided transcripts, prompting accusations of contempt of Congress.

Why It Matters

Ensuring accountability in the executive branch is crucial for upholding the rule of law and maintaining checks and balances within the government.

Who It Impacts

This issue directly impacts the integrity of congressional oversight and the ability to investigate potential misconduct at the highest levels of government.

Contempt Proceedings Against Attorney General Garland Launched by House Committees

The House Judiciary and Oversight and Accountability Committees have initiated contempt proceedings against Attorney General Merrick Garland. This action comes after Garland refused to comply with subpoenas demanding recordings of President Joe Biden’s interviews conducted by special counsel Robert Hur, related to Biden’s handling of classified documents.

The contempt proceedings are set to begin with committee meetings scheduled for May 16. Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) emphasized the importance of these recordings in the ongoing investigation into President Biden. Comer stated, “These audio recordings are important to our investigation of President Biden’s willful retention of classified documents and his fitness to be President of the United States.”

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) released a report recommending the contempt proceedings, criticizing Garland for not providing the actual recordings. The Justice Department had provided transcripts but failed to submit the recordings themselves. Jordan’s report pointed out that Garland had not invoked any constitutional or legal privilege that would exempt him from complying with the subpoenas.

Jordan noted, “Attorney General Garland’s willful refusal to comply with the Committees’ subpoenas constitutes contempt of Congress and warrants referral to the appropriate United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution as prescribed by law.” This strong stance highlights the gravity of the committees’ allegations against Garland.

However, not all committee members are in agreement. Judiciary Democrats and some members of the Oversight and Accountability Committee view the contempt proceedings as politically motivated. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) labeled the move as a distraction from what he termed the Republicans’ “impeachment sham.”

The backdrop to these proceedings includes a broader Republican push to impeach President Biden over alleged bribery and influence peddling. This effort has faced hurdles, particularly after a key witness was indicted for allegedly lying about the Bidens’ involvement in a bribery scheme in Ukraine. The House did manage to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but the Senate quickly dismissed the case.

Chairman Comer has suggested that instead of pursuing impeachment, a criminal referral to the Justice Department might be a more effective path. He commented in March, “What does real accountability look like? Does it look like impeaching Joe Biden in the House and then the Senate tabling it like they’re going to do with the Merrick Garland impeachment? Or does it mean providing real criminal referrals to the Department of Justice? I think the latter.”

If the House votes to hold Garland in contempt, the matter would be referred to the Justice Department. However, it remains uncertain whether House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) will bring the measure to the floor. When asked about the issue, Johnson remarked that he hadn’t “paid any attention to that at all,” though he did accuse the Justice Department of being weaponized against the Biden administration’s political opponents—a claim that the administration and Democrats strongly deny.

This development underscores a significant tension between the legislative and executive branches, with profound implications for accountability and the balance of power within the U.S. government.