Top NewsThe United States refuses to charge Merrick Garland with...

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

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image source, Good pictures

  • author, Max Matza
  • stock, BBC News

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

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 refusal to allow Republican lawmakers to record taped interviews 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”. Mr Johnson called the move “sadly predictable”.

Carlos Felipe Uriarte, an assistant attorney general, said it was the department’s “long-standing position” not to press charges in cases where the president uses his executive powers to decide to withhold material requested.

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

“Accordingly the Department will not bring the contempt of Congress citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” Mr Uriarte wrote.

Mr Johnson called the DoJ decision “another example of the two-tier justice system brought to us by the Biden administration”.

He cited the case of two former Trump aides, Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro. They were found in contempt of Congress, criminally prosecuted and sentenced to prison terms.

Last month, Mr. Biden obtained executive privilege to block congressional Republicans from accessing tapes of his interviews with special counsel Robert Huron, who was investigating his retention of classified documents after serving as vice president.

Mr Biden saw the documents as soon as they were discovered. A DoJ special counsel who interviewed the Democratic president said that even if he retained the files, he should not be charged because jurors would consider him a “well-intentioned old man with a bad memory.”

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. They argued that Republicans wanted to use the audio for campaign attack ads against Biden as he takes office for a second term this November.

As the oldest US president, opponents see Mr Biden’s age, 81, as a major political vulnerability. Republican candidate Donald Trump turned 78.

After leaving office, Trump faces a federal lawsuit on charges he withheld documents that should have been turned over to government archivists.

After being ordered to produce confidential notes, he allegedly attempted to obstruct justice by concealing them.

Two attorneys general have been held in contempt of Congress in recent years.

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