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Justice Department says Garland cannot be held in contempt by Congress: NPR

Attorney General Merrick Garland

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday pushed back against House Republicans’ plan to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt over the department’s refusal to turn over an audio recording of a special counsel’s interview with the president.

“It is a long-standing position of the executive branch held by administrations of both parties that an official who claims the president’s executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte in a letter to Rep. Jim. Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

House Republicans had demanded an audio recording of the interview that special counsel Robert Hur conducted with President Biden. The Department of Justice had provided the relevant panels with a transcript of the interview. In his report, Hur described Biden as “an elderly man with a poor memory,” remarks that angered the White House and its Democratic allies.

Separately, Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote in a letter to President Biden that the “audio recordings of your interview…are subject to executive privilege.”

“Producing these recordings for the committees would raise an unacceptable risk of harming the Department’s ability to conduct similar large-scale criminal investigations, particularly investigations in which the voluntary cooperation of White House officials is extremely important,” he wrote.

This story will be updated

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