Biden blocks release of special counsel interview; asserts executive privilege

President Biden moved Thursday to block the release of audio recordings of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur by exerting executive privilege over the materials, saying House Republicans’ request for it is politically motivated. 

The move comes as House Republicans plan a vote Thursday to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over the audio recordings to Congress.

In a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, Kentucky Republican, Justice Department attorneys said Mr. Biden asserted his executive privilege, which they argue, would shield Mr. Garland from a contempt vote.

“It is the longstanding position of the executive branch held by administrations of both parties that an official who asserts the President’s claim of executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress,” the letter said.

Mr Comer and Mr. Jordan have demanded the audio recordings of Mr. Biden’s interview with Mr. Hur, who was investigating whether Mr. Biden mishandled classified documents. A vote is scheduled for Thursday afternoon to hold Mr. Garland, who appointed Mr. Hur, in contempt.

In the letter, Justice Department lawyers said releasing the recordings would “damage future law enforcement efforts and that the committee’s continued demands raise serious separation of powers concerns.”

White House Counsel Ed Siskel wrote a separate letter to House lawmakers Thursday, slamming the effort to obtain the recordings as a politically motivated effort to embarrass Mr. Biden. He said Republicans didn’t have a legitimate purpose for the materials beyond to “chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes.” 

The White House memo amounts to an admission that the tapes may be embarrassing for the president in a tight election year. 

Mr. Hur issued his final report in February, concluding the president knowingly stored and disclosed classified information kept in unsecured locations, but didn’t bring charges. Among the reasons Mr. Hur recommended not bringing charges was Mr. Biden’s faulty memory.

The report depicts Mr. Biden as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Mr. Hur said a jury would likely not convict the president of mishandling documents because of his faulty memory.

Mr. Hur wrote that during Mr. Biden‘s interview with special counsel investigators, he couldn’t recall when his son Beau died or events from his time as vice president.

The Justice Department has released transcripts of Mr. Biden‘s interview after the Hur report was made public, but not the audio recordings that are in its possession.

Mr. Hur, who has since resigned from the Justice Department, spoke about the importance of the audio recording during a recent congressional hearing. He said the recordings are evidence that helped shape his decision not to charge Mr. Biden.



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