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Justice Department Criticized For Delaying Release of Biden-Hur Interview Audio

 May 12, 2024

The Justice Department is under fire for its attempts to postpone the expedited release of audio recordings featuring President Joe Biden, which were initially requested through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applications by several advocacy groups and media outlets.

The controversy centers on audio tapes from interviews with President Biden conducted by former Special Counsel Robert Hur, with multiple parties including the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project, Judicial Watch, and CNN pushing for their release, as Fox News reports.

Last month, these organizations filed FOIA requests seeking access to the recordings. The requests stemmed from concerns regarding the president's mental fitness and transparency.

The Heritage Foundation's Oversight Project, Judicial Watch, and CNN have collectively pursued the release of these tapes, which have now become the focus of a consolidated lawsuit. Previously, the Justice Department resisted complying with a subpoena issued by House Republicans for the recordings, leading to heightened tensions with congressional figures.

Court Sets Deadline for DOJ to Respond

Washington, D.C.’s U.S. District Court has responded to the situation by setting an expedited briefing schedule, which aims to resolve the dispute over the tape’s release swiftly.

However, the DOJ’s proposal for an August briefing schedule was met with sharp criticism from Kyle Brosnan, chief counsel for the Oversight Project, who labeled it as "absurd" given the urgency of the matter.

The plaintiffs, related to the Heritage Foundation, objected to the DOJ’s initial schedule in a court motion filed on May 2, advocating for a more accelerated timeline.

Allegations of a "Brazen Cover-Up"

Judicial Watch has accused the DOJ of engaging in a cover-up by attempting to delay the release of the tapes. This sentiment is echoed by others involved in the lawsuit who are critical of the Justice Department's tactics.

As the legal battle unfolds, Judge Timothy Kelly has instructed the government to file oppositional motions by the end of May, with a final decision expected by the end of July.

Despite the urgency expressed by the plaintiffs, the Justice Department has only released a transcript of Hur’s interview, not the actual audio, which has only fueled further speculation and controversy.

Debate Over FOIA Exemptions and Public Interest

Brian Boyton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, argued that certain documents requested by CNN are exempt from FOIA disclosure, emphasizing the legal constraints that govern the release of such information.

This position highlights the ongoing debate over what is considered exempt under FOIA and the public’s right to information, particularly when it involves high-profile figures like the President.

The DOJ's reluctance to comment on the matter to Fox News Digital has added another layer of intrigue to the ongoing legal and public relations battle.

Public and Legal Pressure Mounts

House Republicans, such as Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan, have escalated the issue by threatening Attorney General Merrick Garland with a contempt of Congress citation over the delays.

The advocacy groups assert that the public interest necessitates the prompt release of the tapes. Brosnan has pointedly remarked that the DOJ's request for additional time to prepare its legal defenses is unfounded given the extensive resources and prior knowledge of the department.

Further, Brosnan has used President Biden's own statements about his mental capabilities against him, suggesting that the tapes could definitively settle ongoing debates about his fitness for office.

Legal Implications and Next Steps

The Heritage-related plaintiffs in their court motion expressed readiness to push for a speedy resolution, reflecting a broader impatience with the DOJ’s handling of the matter.

With the final motions set for the end of July, all parties are bracing for a significant ruling that could not only impact the current administration but also set precedents for how sensitive information is handled in future cases.

Judicial Watch continues to describe the DOJ's actions as part of a broader attempt to obscure the truth, signaling that the outcome of this case could have wide-reaching consequences for government transparency.

In conclusion, the battle over the Biden-Hur tapes encapsulates significant legal, political, and public interest components, with various parties calling for transparency and rapid action. The coming weeks will likely see increased scrutiny and legal maneuvering as all eyes turn to the court’s decision and its implications for public access to government-held information.