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Biden Asserts Privilege On Hur Audio, But Not Transcript, Spurring Criticism

 May 20, 2024

In a controversial move, President Joe Biden has asserted executive privilege over an audio recording of an interview related to his retention of classified documents.

Biden's move has fueled debate and criticism from various quarters, including legal experts and Republican lawmakers, as the Washington Examiner reports.

The assertion of executive privilege by President Biden concerned an audio recording of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

This came to light hours before the House Judiciary Committee was set to hold a hearing aimed at holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for not releasing the audio.

Despite the president previously waiving privilege over the interview transcript, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Biden's counsel announced the decision to retain the audio under executive privilege late in the process.

This move has drawn accusations from House GOP members, who argue that the decision was politically motivated and an attempt to obscure details about Biden's mental state.

Public and Political Reaction to Biden's Decision

The discrepancy between releasing the transcript and withholding the audio has led to intense scrutiny. Legal experts have pointed out that waiving privilege over one should logically extend to the other.

Executive privilege typically allows the president and his advisers to discuss matters confidentially to facilitate candid discussions.

However, according to public interest law professor John Banzhaf, the application of executive privilege in this case is questionable since the transcript, already made public, does not fall under the traditional use of this privilege as it was an interaction with a law enforcement official, not private discussions between the president and his advisers.

Legal Challenges and Congressional Responses

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, has indicated plans to legally challenge the use of executive privilege in this instance, describing it as a novel and potentially inappropriate use.

The issue escalated during a chaotic House Oversight Committee hearing, although the Judiciary Committee managed a more composed discussion.

The committees involved have both passed contempt resolutions against Attorney General Garland, which are now set to advance to the full House for a vote. During these hearings, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) commented, "That tape must be quite something if the administration of the president has decided to assert executive privilege to keep it from the committee in the course of an impeachment inquiry."

The Impact of DOJ's Stance on Evidence Disclosure

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) criticized the selective release of evidence, stressing that "There’s a difference between a transcript and a video and audio." This sentiment underscores the frustration among some lawmakers regarding the transparency of the process.

The DOJ has countered that releasing the audio could potentially discourage witnesses in future investigations from coming forward, arguing that protecting the confidentiality of high-level discussions is crucial for candid discourse.

Moreover, the DOJ asserts that an official who invokes the president’s executive privilege in good faith cannot be prosecuted for contempt, adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing legal and political battles.

Controversial Remarks Stir Additional Debate

The hearings were not without their moments of drama. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a controversial remark to Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), suggesting that her "fake eyelashes are messing up your reading," which sparked calls for an apology and added to the heated atmosphere.

In conclusion, President Biden’s decision to assert executive privilege over the audio recording while releasing the transcript has sparked a multifaceted debate involving legal interpretations, political motivations, and the practical implications of such a decision.

The coming days will likely see further developments as legal challenges are mounted and the full House votes on the contempt resolutions.