House Republicans are demanding that the Department of Justice turn over the audio from Robert Hur’s interviews with President Joe Biden and his ghostwriter, but the DOJ is refusing to comply – essentially telling the GOP that it’s time to move on. Here’s what you need to know!

DOJ Says Republicans Have Enough Information

On Monday (April 8), Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) and House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) in response to their request for audio of the Hur-Biden interview. 

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Uriarte argued that the DOJ ‘worked diligently’ to respond to congressional requests, and that they had already ‘received an extraordinary amount of information—and quickly.’ The DOJ was having a hard time understanding why they needed more details. 

GOP Threatened Merrick Garland With Contempt Proceedings

Jordan and Comer, who requested the DOJ to release the audio back in February, threatened Attorney General Merrick Garland with contempt proceedings after accusing the Biden Administration of withholding relevant information in the case. 

Source: Wikimedia/The United States Department of Justice

“The Committees’ reaction is difficult to explain in terms of any lack of information or frustration of any informational or investigative imperative, given the Department’s actual conduct,” Uriarte wrote – adding that releasing the audio could have dire consequences in future cases. 

Avoid Conflict, Rather Than Seek It

The DOJ didn’t stop there. They took their criticism one step further and accused GOP members of seeking conflict where there doesn’t need to be any – especially since they already have the full transcripts of the interviews.

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“We are therefore concerned that the Committees are disappointed not because you didn’t receive information, but because you did,” Uarte’s letter continues. “We urge the Committees to avoid conflict rather than seek it.”

What Did Robert Hur Say About Joe Biden? 

The audio that the Republicans want is from special counsel Robert Hur’s yearlong investigation into Biden’s mishandling of classified documents after his term as Vice President between 2009 and 2017. The interview in question was conducted in October.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

On February 5, Hur released his report detailing why he wasn’t going to press charges against Biden. Part of his reasoning was that Biden would be viewed as a ‘well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory’ in front of a jury. 

Hur Stood By His Report During March Testimony

Last month, Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee and defended his report – which had both Democrats and Republicans angry. Democrats didn’t like the comment about Biden’s memory, while Republicans were made that Biden wasn’t being charged.

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“I understood that my explanation about this case had to include rigorous, detailed and thorough analysis,” Hur said in his opening remarks. “In other words, I needed to show my work, just as I would expect any prosecutor to show his or her work in explaining the decision to prosecute or not.”

Why Do Republicans Want The Audio? 

Jordan and Comer initially issued the subpoenas for the audio files in February. At the time, they said they needed access to all requested materials to oversee Hur’s probe and further evaluate Mr. Biden’s conduct.

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Republicans want to take a closer look at Hur’s investigation to ensure nothing was being withheld in an effort to avoid prosecution – especially with Donald Trump facing felony charges in a similar case that involved the mishandling of classified documents. 

Jordan And Comer Send Letter To Garland

On March 25, Reps. Comer and Jordan sent a letter to Garland reiterating the Committees’ subpoenas for the audio files. They accused the DOJ of purposely providing news outlets with the transcripts before sending them to the Committees. 

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“Accordingly, the Committees expect you to produce all responsive materials no later than 12:00

p.m. on April 8, 2024. If you fail to do so, the Committees will consider taking further action,

such as the invocation of contempt of Congress proceedings,” they wrote in the letter. 

DOJ Sends Transcripts Of Zwonitzer’s Interviews

The DOJ sent its reply, as we discussed above, along with the transcripts of Mark Zwonitzer’s interviews with Hur – Zwonitzer is Biden’s ghostwriter and was also interviewed by Robert Hur as part of his investigation.

Source: Wikimedia/The White House

While the DOJ willingly sent over the transcript, they added that ‘it is not clear to the Department that the Committee has established an additional need for these transcripts.’ Nonetheless, the DOJ sent it over ‘as a further accommodation.’ 

Accuses Republicans Of Having Ill Intentions

The DOJ continued to blast Republicans for their repeated attempts at receiving the audio files – ultimately accusing them of wanting to use the audio for political purposes, as opposed to using them as intended (to evaluate Biden’s conduct).

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In the letter, they claimed that the GOP’s intentions ‘may not be in receiving information in service of legitimate oversight or investigatory functions, but to serve political purposes that should have no role in the treatment of law enforcement files.”

Comer Responds To DOJ’s Letter

In a statement response to the DOJ, Rep. Comer called it ‘curious’ that the Biden Administration was refusing to give up the audio – arguing that the American people should be able to hear the actual audio behind Biden’s answers.

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“The Biden Administration does not get to determine what Congress needs and does not need for its oversight of the executive branch,” Comer wrote in the statement. “The American people demand transparency from their leaders, not obstruction.” 

Can Republicans Hold Garland In Contempt? 

If the Republicans want to follow through with their threat to hold Garland in contempt, the path would have to start in committee – where they would need a majority vote. Once they have the support of a committee, they would need to get the entire House on board.

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As you can imagine, that wouldn’t be easy. Even if they get to that point, the Department of Justice would have to take up the referral to investigate the Cabinet official – and that’s even more unlikely since Garland is the head of that department. 

They Did It To Eric Holder In 2012

In 2012, Eric Holder became the first sitting Attorney General to be held in contempt of Congress over his failure to turn over documents related to the Fast and Furious scandal. The House of Representatives voted 255-67 in favor of the measure.

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Michael Horowitz, The Justice Department’s inspector general during the Obama administration, refused to prosecute Holder and eventually cleared him of the charges. He was succeeded as attorney general in 2015.