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Audio broadcast of Biden special adviser interview blocked by White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House has blocked the release of audio of President Joe Biden interviews special counsel over its handling of classified documents, arguing Thursday that congressional Republicans only wanted the recordings to “cut them up” and use them for political purposes.

The dispute over access to the recordings is at the center of a Republican effort to maintain Attorney General Merrick Garland in defiance of Congress and, more broadly, to hamper the Democratic president’s re-election efforts during the final months of a hotly contested campaign.

“The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely purpose: to cut them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes,” Ed Siskel, White House counsel, wrote in a letter scathing to House Republicans ahead of schedule. votes by two House committees to refer Garland to the Justice Department for contempt charges following the ministry’s refusal to release the audio.

“To demand such sensitive, constitutionally protected law enforcement documents from the executive branch because you want to manipulate them for potential political purposes is inappropriate,” Siskel added.

Garland separately informed Biden in a letter made public Thursday that the audio fell under executive privilege, which protects a president’s ability to obtain frank advice from his advisers without fear of immediate public disclosure and to protect confidential communications related to official responsibilities.

Garland told reporters that the Justice Department had gone to extraordinary lengths to provide information to committees about Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation, including a transcript of Biden’s interview with Hur. But, Garland said, releasing the audio could compromise future sensitive and high-profile investigations. Officials suggested that handing over the tape could cause future witnesses to worry about cooperating with investigators.

“There has been a series of unprecedented and frankly unfounded attacks on the Justice Department,” Garland said. “This request, this effort to use contempt as a method to obtain our sensitive records from law enforcement is only the latest.”

The Justice Department warned Congress that an attempted contempt would create “unnecessary and unwarranted conflict,” with Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte saying, “This is the long-standing position of the executive branch held by US administrations.” two parties than an official who asserts the president’s claims Executive privilege cannot be considered a contempt of Congress.

Siskel’s letter to lawmakers comes after the uproar of Biden collaborators and allies Hur’s comments on Biden’s age and mental acuity, and it highlights concerns during a difficult election year about how potentially embarrassing moments from the lengthy interview could be exacerbated by the broadcast, or broadcast selective, audio.

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson criticized the White House’s decision, accusing Biden of removing the tape because he was afraid voters would hear it during an election year.

“The American people will not be able to understand why prosecutors believed that the President of the United States was, in the words of Special Counsel Robert Hur, an ‘elderly man with a bad memory’ and therefore should not be indicted,” Johnson said. on during a press conference on the House steps.

House Democrats plan to defend Biden’s reasoning in back-to-back hearings on Thursday, planning to cite the enormous amount of documents and witnesses that have been made available to Republicans as part of their more than two-year investigation. ‘a year on Biden and his family.

The contempt effort is seen by Democrats as a last-ditch effort to keep Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into Biden alive, despite a series of setbacks in recent months and wavering support for articles of impeachment within the Democratic conference. GOP.

A transcription of Hur’s interview showed Biden having trouble remembering some dates and sometimes confusing some details — something his longtime aides say he has done for years, both publicly and privately — but otherwise showing a deep memory in other areas. Biden and his aides are particularly sensitive to questions about his age. At 81 years old, he is the oldest president everand he is seeking another four-year term.

Hur, a former senior Justice Department official in the Trump administrationwas named special advisor in January 2023 following the discovery of classified documents in several locations linked to Biden.

Hur’s report said many documents recovered from the Penn Biden Center in Washington, parts of Biden’s Delaware home and his Senate papers at the University of Delaware were retained by “mistake.”

But investigators found evidence of voluntary preservation and disclosure related to a subset of documents found in Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, home, including a garage, office and basement den.

The files concern a troop surge in Afghanistan during the Obama administration that Biden vigorously opposed. Biden kept documents documenting his position, including a classified letter to Obama during the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday. Some of that information was shared with a ghostwriter with whom he published memoirs in 2007 and 2017.

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Associated Press journalists Zeke Miller and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.

News Source : apnews.com
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