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Why has Congress held Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over Joe Biden audios?

House Republicans voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress a move the nation’s top law official called “deeply disappointing.”

AG Garland held in contempt of Congress
Anna Rose LaydenREUTERS

House Republicans threw down the gauntlet on Wednesday, voting nearly along party lines to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. Only one member of the GOP voted against the resolution, Ohio Rep. Dave Joyce, saying that it “would further politicize our judicial system to score political points.”

The move to hold the AG in contempt comes after the Department of Justice, which Garland heads, has refused to hand over audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interviews with former special counsel Robert Hur. For months, House Republicans have been trying to get their hands on them but Biden asserted executive privilege in May, concerned that the audios would be unfairly manipulated by GOP lawmakers.

Congressional lawmakers already have the transcripts from said recordings taken during the investigation into President Biden’s handling of classified documents. However, House Republicans say that they need the actual audios for their monthslong impeachment inquiry into the President that has stalled.

Can Attorney Garland be arrested for contempt of Congress?

The contempt of Congress report will now be handed over to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia once House Speaker Mike Johnson has certified it. Then under law, the US attorney is required to bring the matter before a grand jury. However, it is up to DOJ to determine whether to prosecute the matter.

Speaker Johnson was pleased with the outcome of Wednesday’s vote but as for whether Garland should be prosecuted, he said; “We’ll see what happens next.”

“Look, we did our job on the contempt, and I think it sends an important message,” Johnson told CNN. “We’re defending Article I and our authority for oversight, and we have to do that.”

For his part Garland called the situation “deeply disappointing” and accused GOP lawmakers of having “turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon.”

“Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the Committees,” Garland said in a statement.