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Biden claims executive privilege over audio of interview with Special Advisor Hur

The Justice Department informed House Republicans on Thursday that President Joe Biden formally asserted executive privilege over the audio of his interview with Special Counsel Robert Hur, a move that the DOJ said effectively protects the prosecutor Gen. Merrick Garland from any criminal reporting as Republican lawmakers move toward trying to hold him in contempt of Congress.

The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee was meeting Thursday morning to move forward on a resolution recommending a full contempt vote in the House against Garland.

The Justice Department previously provided a transcript of Biden’s interview to House Republicans.

Citing what he described as “extraordinary” cooperation and “good faith” efforts to provide Republicans with all relevant elements of Hur’s investigation into President Biden’s handling of classified documents while he was not in office, the department argued that releasing the audio would set an untenable precedent where high-profile figures under criminal investigation would question their cooperation with the government in the future.

“The attorney general must draw a line that protects the department from inappropriate political influence and protects our principles, our law enforcement work, and the people who do that work independently, without fear or favor,” the attorney wrote. Deputy Attorney General Carlos Uriarte in the letter. “The committees seek to hold the attorney general in contempt not for failing in his duties, but for fulfilling them.”

Uriarte further detailed in his letter how the department had previously made available the transcript of Biden’s interview with Hur, and argued that Republicans had not provided any reason for the audio to add additional value to their efforts to investigate Biden.

In explaining the decision to have Biden formally assert executive privilege over the remaining documents sought by Republicans — which includes audio of the interview with Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer — Uriarte highlighted the policy of DOJ’s long-standing “holding by administrations of both parties that an official who claims the president claims executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress.

“With the information you currently have, commissions should not proceed with contempt and should instead avoid unnecessary and unwarranted conflicts,” Uriarte said.

In rare public comments Thursday morning, speaking to reporters outside his office, Garland accused House Republicans of mounting a series of “unprecedented” and “baseless” attacks on the Department of Justice. Justice, as he defended Biden’s decision to assert executive privilege over the audio of his interview with Hur.

“We have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the committees get answers to their legitimate requests, but this is not one of them,” Garland said. “If anything, it would harm the ability to successfully pursue sensitive investigations in the future.”

He argued that efforts by House Republicans to hold him in contempt were part of a broader pattern of attacks that used widespread distrust and threats against the Justice Department.

“There has been a series of unprecedented and frankly unfounded attacks on the Justice Department,” Garland said. “This effort to use contempt as a method to obtain our sensitive records from law enforcement is just the latest. The effort to threaten to withhold funding from our investigations and how this contributes to an atmosphere that puts our agents and prosecutors at risk – this is wrong.

Garland added: “Look, the only thing I can do is continue to do the right thing. I will protect this building and its people.”

The GOP-led House Oversight Committee was scheduled to meet later Thursday to also consider a contempt resolution.

President James Comer criticized Biden for claiming executive privilege over audio of his interview – saying in a statement “this is a five-alarm fire at the White House,” adding that it “doesn’t change anything”.

“Clearly, President Biden and his advisors are concerned about releasing the audio recordings of his interview because doing so would once again reaffirm to the American people that President Biden’s mental state is in decline,” Comer said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

“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, a quote from an elderly man with a poor memory and who therefore should not be charged.” , declared the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson. a news conference by GOP leaders Thursday morning, shortly after the White House and DOJ sent letters to House Republicans.

Johnson said the audio recordings “obviously confirm what the special prosecutor found and would probably cause, I suppose, in his estimation, such alarm among the American people that the president would use all his power to prevent their release.”

Hur’s yearlong investigation into Biden’s handling of classified materials ended with the recommendation of no criminal charges because the evidence was not sufficient to support a conviction. However, the 388-page report released by Hur created a political storm when the special prosecutor described Biden as someone who could appeal to a jury as an “elderly man with a bad memory.”

White House counsel Ed Siskel also wrote a letter to Comer House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan explaining the decision to assert executive privilege over the recordings.

In it, Siskel asserts that Biden has a responsibility to protect executive branch law enforcement from “undue partisan interference.”

“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,” Siskel wrote.

ABC News’ Mary Bruce, Lauren Peller and Will Steakin contributed to this report.

News Source : abcnews.go.com
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