DOJ Declines To Prosecute Merrick Garland After House Contempt Vote

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced it will not prosecute Attorney General Merrick Garland following the House of Representatives’ decision to hold him in contempt of Congress. The House voted 216 to 207 to hold Garland in contempt for his refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas related to Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified information.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte addressed House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) in a letter, explaining that President Joe Biden asserted executive privilege, directing Garland not to release the subpoenaed materials. Uriarte stated that this directive was based on a DOJ legal opinion, which deemed asserting privilege legally proper.

The House subpoenas, issued by the Oversight and Accountability Committee and the Judiciary Committee in February, demanded various records, including transcripts, notes, videos, and audio files. These were related to Hur’s investigation, which concluded that Biden, described as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” would not face prosecution.

The DOJ stated that it provided all requested materials, including Special Counsel Hur’s unredacted report and facilitated his congressional testimony. Despite this, Republicans insisted on audio tapes of Hur’s interview with Biden, arguing that written transcripts were insufficient. These transcripts highlighted Biden’s memory lapses, further fueling the controversy.

Uriarte reiterated the DOJ’s longstanding position of not prosecuting officials for contempt of Congress when subpoenaed information is protected by executive privilege. This stance aligns with past decisions, such as the 2019 contempt citations against then-Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, which also did not lead to prosecutions.

This decision by the DOJ contrasts with the case of Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist for Donald Trump, who was ordered to report to prison on July 1 for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. Bannon was convicted and sentenced to four months in prison, a decision upheld by an appeals court.

In conclusion, the DOJ determined that Garland’s responses to the subpoenas did not constitute a crime, thereby opting not to pursue the contempt citation against him.