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House moves to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for withholding Biden audio

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is expected Wednesday to vote on a resolution holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audio of President Joe Biden’s interview in his classified documents case, a move that comes just weeks after the White House blocked release of the recording to lawmakers.

The contempt action represents House Republicans’ latest and strongest rebuke of the Justice Department and of Garland’s leadership, playing out against the backdrop of an extraordinary conflict over the rule of law that has animated the 2024 presidential campaign. Republicans have denounced the pending criminal cases into former President Donald Trump, their presumptive nominee for the White House, while making sweeping claims about what they view as corruption in Biden’s administration.

“We have to defend the Constitution. We have to defend the authority of Congress,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said at a press conference. “We can’t allow the Department of Justice and Executive Branch hide information from Congress.”

Yet despite the GOP feelings about Garland, it remains uncertain if Johnson can garner enough support on the floor to pass the contempt resolution. Republicans have the slimmest of majorities, which means that any bill that lacks Democratic support — like the contempt resolution — can quickly collapse if even a few Republicans defect.

Republican leaders looked to ease concerns about the vote count Wednesday morning coming out of their weekly conference meeting.

“We just talked about it with the membership. Nobody raised any questions. Obviously, with a two-seat majority, everything is close. … I think people understand how important it is to get it done and to get the facts out,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise said.

“Ronald Reagan said trust but verify. Why not show the audio to verify?” he added.

Republicans were incensed when Special Counsel Robert Hur declined to prosecute Biden over his handling of classified documents and quickly opened an investigation. GOP lawmakers — led by Reps. Jim Jordan and James Comer — sent a subpoena for audio of Hur’s interviews with Biden during the spring. But the Justice Department only turned over some of the records, leaving out audio of Hur’s interview with the president.

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