House Votes to Hold Garland in Contempt

But prosecution is highly unlikely
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2024 5:23 PM CDT
House Votes to Hold Garland in Contempt
Rep. Jim Jordan, joined at left by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, talks to reporters about thevote to find Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

"We can't allow the Department of Justice and an executive branch agency to hide information from Congress," Speaker Mike Johnson said Wednesday before the House voted 216-207 in favor of holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. With the vote, House Republicans made good on their threat to hold Garland in contempt for refusing to hand over audio of President Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur. The case will now be referred to the US attorney in Washington for potential prosecution, though a criminal charge is highly unlikely, the New York Times reports.

  • Precedent. Biden has invoked executive privilege over the materials, and it would go against precedent for charges to be filed against an executive branch official in the case, the Times reports. Executive privilege was cited when the Justice Department declined to prosecute two of Garland's predecessors who were held in contempt, Eric Holder in 2012 and Bill Barr in 2019. Holder was the first AG in history to be held in contempt of Congress.

  • One GOP holdout. The vote was largely along party lines, but one Republican voted against the measure, Politico reports. "As a former prosecutor, I cannot in good conscience support a resolution that would further politicize our judicial system to score political points," said Ohio Rep. David Joyce.
  • The tapes. Lawmakers were given a transcript of the interview in the classified documents case, but since no charges were filed, the Justice Department declined to hand over the audio, saying it would set a bad precedent, the Washington Post reports. Garland has said there is no valid legislative reason for the request. "I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated," he said during testimony last week. Last month, he criticized the effort to use "contempt as a method of obtaining our sensitive law enforcement files."
  • Democratic criticism. "This contempt resolution will do very little, other than smear the reputation of Merrick Garland, who will remain a good and decent public servant no matter what Republicans say about him today," said Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, during floor debate Wednesday, per the AP. Democrats noted that Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee's Republican chairman, defied subpoenas from Jan. 6 investigators.
(More Merrick Garland stories.)

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