GOP-led House now has just 25 days on Hill before Election Day to pry Hur tapes from Garland

Regarding fining Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rep. Andy Biggs said, "I'm hearing it's gonna be a close vote."

Published: July 7, 2024 10:19pm

Updated: July 8, 2024 6:08am

The Republican-led House returns Monday to Capitol Hill with just 25 scheduled legislative days left before the November elections to obtain the audio tapes of Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur's 2023 interview with President Biden regarding his mishandling of classified documents.

The House GOP has the transcript of the five-hour interview but has offered several arguments on why it wants the tapes – including that the federal criminal investigation ended this year with no charges against Biden in part because Hur concluded a jury would likely view the president as a “sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

The comment took on much great significance after Biden's June 27 debate with GOP candidate Donald Trump in which the president's cognitive abilities appear to contribute to his halting performance. 

GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson has also suggested he wants the tapes to ensure the transcript of the interview is accurate.

Earlier in June, the House voted to hold Garland in contempt for declining to turn over the subpoenaed tapes, but Garland's department declined to prosecute him

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee sued Garland to enforce its subpoena for the tapes. 

This is not the committee's first attempt to get its hands on the tape. After it pressured Garland previously, Biden exerted his executive privilege over the committee to prevent their disclosure.

Republicans have rejected the executive privilege argument because the lower chamber already has the transcript.

“Any privilege that could conceivably apply to President Biden’s interview with the special counsel was waived when the Executive Branch released a transcript of that interview to the press and produced that transcript to the Committee,” according to the House lawsuit against Garland.

In Hur's report on his investigation he also stated Biden “appeared to have significant limitation” in recordings with ghostwriter of his memoir, Mark Zwonitzer, in 2017 and during his 2023 interview with the special counsel’s team.

“Mr. Biden's recorded conversations with Zwonitzer from 2017 are often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries,” Hur’s report said of the recorded memoir planning sessions.

Yet, by 2023, when President Biden sat for a five-hour interview with Hur’s team, his memory was “worse,” failing to recall the years of his vice presidency and forgetting the year – 2015 – that his son, Beau Biden, died after a battle with brain cancer, according to the report.

“He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ('if it was 2013 - when did I stop being Vice President?'), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ('in 2009, am I still Vice President?'),” Hur wrote, summarizing the interview.

The Department of Justice admitted in May in a federal court document that the transcript had been altered, omitting some repeated words and filler words such as "um."

The department submitted the document as part of a lawsuit filed against it by the conservative legal watchdog Judicial Watch, the Heritage Foundation and a media coalition led by CNN.

"The transcript is not accurate and was changed in a way to help Biden," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. "There is nothing ordinary about this, and the transcript inaccuracy issues seem to help Biden’s political campaign needs." 

Meanwhile, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) late last month introduced a resolution that would fine Garland $10,000 a day until he complies with the subpoena and releases the audio tapes, the Ohio Capital Journal reported. Luna is invoking the House’s power of “inherent contempt” to fine Garland. She plans to force a vote as early as this week.

Luna says she will bring a resolution to require the House sergeant-at-arms to detain Garland and bring him before the lower chamber. That resolution was also going to invoke the “inherent contempt” power, but she changed it to a fine instead of an arrest.

“Inherent contempt” hasn’t been used by the House since 1935 because the trial it triggers is time-consuming and cannot be extended past the Congress that initiates it, according to this year’s House guide.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told the "Just The News, No Noise" TV show last Monday that he believes there are enough votes to charge Garland with inherent contempt of Congress.

"I know our party will probably have to pass [the resolution] without the Democrats, but I think we've got the votes to do that," Norman said. "I'm glad that it's gotten as far as it has, [Luna] has worked on this for, I think, over two years to get this right, to make sure she has it in a form that will ... pass the House and ... get the job done with Merrick Garland."

Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), however, expressed less hope in the Republican conference being able to hold Garland in inherent contempt.

Crane told the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show in an interview aired Thursday: “I will vote for inherent contempt. I'll continue to vote for us to cut spending. But based on even the little time that I've been in Congress, a little over a year and a half now, I'm not going to hold my breath and think that this Republican conference, you know, found religion overnight and is willing to actually do the things that we campaigned on.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) agreed with Norman that he believes there may be enough votes to pass the inherent contempt resolution, but added that he’s concerned about Republicans letting up on Garland.

“I'm hearing it's gonna be a close vote,” Biggs told the “Just the News, No Noise” TV show on Tuesday.

“The biggest fear I have is that it's going to be, are we're going to, you know, soften it up, are we going to make it easier instead of actually just sending that sergeant-at-arms and bringing in Merrick Garland with the audio recordings?"

Beyond such an effort, the GOP-led House appears to have limited, if any, options to get the tapes, following its so far unsuccessful efforts in the Biden impeachment hearings, with the looming possibility Republicans could lose the chamber to Democrats in November. 

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