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House to Vote on Garland Detention Over Biden Interview Tape

 June 25, 2024

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) is set to force a House vote on her “inherent contempt” resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland, a move that comes after the DOJ decided not to prosecute Garland for refusing to hand over an audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with then-special counsel Robert Hur.

This move aims to use against the Biden administration official Congress’ long-dormant power to imprison individuals until they comply with its demands, marking a significant conflict between the legislative and executive branches, as the Washington Examiner reports.

Luna Criticizes DOJ Decision

Rep. Luna announced her intention to push for the vote, which is expected to take place in the next few days.

This decision follows the DOJ’s refusal to prosecute Garland, who did not comply with a congressional subpoena to produce an audio recording of President Biden’s interview. The House had already voted in mid-June to hold Garland in contempt of Congress for his refusal.

Luna criticized the DOJ’s decision, stating that it shows a "blatant disregard for Congress as an institution." She argued that the executive branch would continue withholding information from Congress without consequences. According to Luna, both criminal and civil contempt rely on enforcement by other branches, a scenario she believes the founding fathers never envisioned.

“The Department of Justice and the attorney general cannot be the ultimate deciders of whether or not a congressional subpoena is enforced,” Luna said. “If Congress allows this to happen, we risk being subordinated to the attorney general and being completely neutered in our ability to legislate.”

What Is Inherent Contempt?

The inherent contempt power, which Luna’s resolution relies on, has not been used since 1935. This power allows the House to imprison individuals until they comply with congressional demands. The process involves arrest by the sergeant-at-arms, a trial on the House floor, and potential imprisonment or detention in the Capitol.

House GOP leaders are insistent on obtaining the audio recording, claiming it is crucial to assess Biden’s mental faculties. Garland and House Democrats argue that a "verbatim" transcript of the interview is already public, rendering the recording unnecessary.

GOP Leaders Demand Audio Recording

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer emphasized that transcripts cannot capture aspects like tone, inflection, pace, and pauses that convey a person’s message fully. “The audio recordings are necessary to adequately evaluate special counsel Hur’s assessment about President Biden’s memory and to determine whether the DOJ is engaging in a two-tiered application of justice by refusing to indict Joe Biden,” Emmer said.

Luna pointed out that criminal and civil contempt actions depend on enforcement by other branches, unlike inherent contempt. She warned that allowing the DOJ’s decision could undermine Congress’s legislative power.

Potential Political Implications

The House will return from a weeklong recess on Tuesday, and filing the resolution as privileged could lead to a vote on inherent contempt of Garland this week. All Democrats voted against the original contempt resolution, accusing Republicans of politicizing the matter. Democrats claim the recording is being sought for political reasons, including aiding Trump’s campaign or smearing Biden.

Rep. Jim McGovern criticized the Republicans’ stance, stating, “Republicans seem to be OK when, you know, if Democrats are held to account by the legal system, but if a Republican is held to account, they cry, you know, ‘Sham, rigged system, undue influence by, you know, the administration.'” He added, “The hypocrisy is stunning.”

Republicans Claim Need for Transparency

Republicans argue that Biden’s assertion of executive privilege over the recording supports their impeachment inquiry and broader investigation into the Biden family. They insist the recording is essential for transparency and accountability.

Luna’s resolution to use inherent contempt aims to assert Congress’s authority in compelling compliance with its subpoenas. This historic move underscores the ongoing tension between the legislative and executive branches over oversight and accountability.

Conclusion

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna’s push to force a House vote on her “inherent contempt” resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland highlights a significant conflict between Congress and the executive branch.

The resolution seeks to use Congress’s long-dormant power to imprison individuals until they comply with congressional demands, following the DOJ’s refusal to prosecute Garland for not handing over an audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview.

This move, supported by House GOP leaders, emphasizes the importance of obtaining the recording to assess Biden’s mental faculties and ensure transparency. Democrats have criticized the effort as politicized, while Republicans argue it is necessary for oversight and accountability.

The House is expected to vote on the resolution in the coming days.