Attorney General

Justice Department rejects contempt case against attorney general

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Merrick Garland before Congress

Attorney General Merrick Garland at a House Judiciary Committee hearing this month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Justice Department officials said Friday that the agency will not pursue contempt of Congress charges against Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Republican-run House had voted for this week.

The decision, relayed in a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), had been expected. Garland was the third attorney general in the past 12 years to face such a vote, and the department has never pursued a contempt case against its own leader.

The letter to Johnson from Justice Department official Carlos Uriarte noted that over multiple administrations, the department has not pursued contempt cases against government officials who, based on a presidential assertion of executive privilege, do not provide subpoenaed information to Congress.

“Consistent with this long-standing position and uniform practice, the Department has determined that the responses by Attorney General Garland to the subpoenas issued by the Committees do not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” Uriarte’s letter said.

Republicans voted Wednesday to find Garland in contempt for the department’s refusal to turn over audio recordings of an interview conducted last year by special counsel Robert K. Hur of President Biden. Lawmakers received a written transcript of the interview, but GOP members issued a subpoena for the recordings as well.

The Justice Department refused to turn over the recordings, saying to do so would set a bad precedent for future investigations involving political figures or issues. Biden was interviewed by the special counsel over classified documents and information found in his home and former office.

Hur ultimately concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Biden with a crime related to those documents and information.

Republicans have charged that the Justice Department and Garland have not aggressively pursued investigations of Biden and his family. The contempt vote came a day after the Justice Department won a conviction against Biden’s son Hunter on felony gun charges.

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