The United States refuses to charge Merrick Garland with contempt of Congress

image source, Good pictures

  • author, Max Matza
  • stock, BBC News

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) declined to bring charges against Attorney General Merrick Garland for contempt of Congress, after the House of Representatives narrowly voted to impeach President Joe Biden for refusing to hand over audio tapes.

The Republican-controlled House voted 216-207 on Wednesday to file criminal charges against America’s top law enforcement official, the DoJ, the department Mr. Garland oversees.

The move stems from Mr. Garland’s denial of tapes of interviews with Republican lawmakers from a Justice Department investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents.

In a letter to House Republican Speaker Mike Johnson on Friday, a top DoJ official said the department had found Mr Garland’s actions “did not constitute a crime”.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte said it is the department’s long-standing policy not to press charges in cases where the president has decided to use his executive powers to cover up the requested material.

“Consistent with this longstanding position and consistent practice, the Department has determined that Attorney General Garland’s responses to the subpoenas issued by the Committees do not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the contempt of Congress citation before a grand jury. Take no other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” Mr. Uriarte said. wrote

Executive privilege is a legal doctrine that gives presidents the right to withhold executive branch information from the other two branches of government.

Mr Biden saw the documents as soon as they were discovered. A DoJ special counsel who interviewed Mr Biden said Mr Biden should not be charged even if he had the files.

The White House said there was no legitimate need for Republicans to access the five hours of audio because a transcript had already been released. Republicans, they argued, wanted to use the audio for campaign attack ads against the incumbent Democrat as he seeks a second term as president.

The special counsel’s report said Mr Harr hoped prosecutors would struggle to get a conviction against Mr Biden because jurors would view him as a “well-intentioned old man with a bad memory”.

Mr Biden, 81, is the oldest US president, and his age and clarity are seen by Republicans as a political weakness.

Former President and Republican nominee Donald Trump is also accused of retaining documents that should have been turned over to government archivists after he left office.

Trump has been charged in a separate case by a different special counsel. After being ordered to sign, allegedly tried to obstruct justice by concealing classified notes.

In a statement responding to the DoJ’s decision, Mr Johnson said he would pursue the audio in federal court, adding that the move was “sadly predictable”.

Two attorneys general have been held in contempt of Congress in recent years. Eric Holder and Bill Barr in both cases received identical letters from the DoJ, saying prosecutors declined to press charges.

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