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Biden Claims Executive Privilege Over Hur Audio Files Ahead of House Contempt Proceedings Against Garland



CNN

President Joe Biden asserted executive privilege over recordings of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur, according to letters from the White House and Justice Department to House Republicans.

Republican lawmakers previously subpoenaed audio recordings of Biden’s interviews, as well as his ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer, and other material from Hur’s investigation into Biden’s handling of classified information. The House Oversight and Judiciary committees are expected to begin the process Thursday of holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with those subpoenas.

“Due to the President’s long-standing commitment to protecting the integrity, effectiveness, and independence of the Department of Justice and its investigations of law enforcement, he has decided to assert privilege executive on the recordings,” White House counsel Edward Siskel wrote to House Oversight Chairman James. Comer and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan.

The White House stressed that the Justice Department had already provided transcripts of the special counsel’s interviews with Biden and his ghostwriter, and had complied with other aspects of the Republicans’ initial subpoena.

Siskel accused Republicans of wanting to distort audio recordings and criticized them for going after prosecutors with whom they disagree.

“The lack 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.

In light of the White House’s assertion of executive privilege, the Justice Department called on House Republicans to cancel their planned contempt proceedings.

“With the information currently available to you, committees should not proceed with contempt and should instead avoid unnecessary and unwarranted conflict,” wrote Office of Legislative Affairs Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte.

Uriarte also defended the need to protect the audio tapes: “We have repeatedly made clear that disclosure of subpoenaed audio recordings would harm future law enforcement efforts and that the commissions’ continued requests raise serious concerns regarding the separation of powers. »

The transcript of the two-day interview between Hur’s team and Biden was released in March ahead of Hur’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

Hur did not recommend charges against Biden in his report and said the president, in the interview, came across as an “older, friendly, well-meaning man with a poor memory.”

In April, CNN filed a lawsuit seeking access to recordings of Biden’s interview.

Through their DOJ subpoenas, House Republicans have argued that the audio recordings are crucial to their impeachment investigation of Biden, which remains stalled because the chances of the inquiry ending in impeachment are more and more improbable. Without the votes of their narrow majority or evidence of an impeachable offense, Republicans are now struggling to know how to end their investigation and are looking for ways to target other members of the Biden administration.

Garland denounced Republican-led attacks on the Justice Department in remarks following the announcement that Biden would assert executive privilege.

“The Department of Justice is a fundamental institution of our democracy,” Garland told reporters at the Justice Department in Washington, DC. “People are counting on us to ensure that our investigations and prosecutions are conducted in accordance with the facts and the law and without political influence. »

In their contempt filings, Republicans said the DOJ cannot determine what information is relevant to their investigation, and argued that the verbal nuances of an audio recording provide unique insight into a subject that is not not reflected in a transcript.

“The Constitution does not authorize the executive branch to dictate to Congress how to conduct or provide oversight of an impeachment inquiry,” the report said.

The Republicans, for their part, say in their report that while the interview transcripts reflect what was said, “they do not reflect important verbal context, such as tone or tenor, or nonverbal context, such as breaks or the rhythm of the performance.

Such pauses and inflections, Republicans say, “can provide insights into a witness’s ability to remember events, or whether the individual is intentionally giving evasive or insensitive testimony to investigators.”

Republicans pointed to a recent example of a discrepancy between a transcript and an audio recording of the president, saying that during a speech last month, Biden read aloud a teleprompter signal during his speech, which was reflected in the recording of the event but not in the initial transcription of his remarks.

The House Oversight Committee pushed back its Thursday markup start time so Republican committee members could attend former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York, two sources told CNN close to the file.

When asked for comment on the reason for the schedule change, a spokeswoman for the oversight committee told CNN: “Due to scheduling conflicts among members, marking now begins at a different time for adapt to members’ schedules. »

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

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News Source : amp.cnn.com

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