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Raskin accuses GOP of ‘contriving’ Garland obstruction

House Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-MD) accused House Republicans of moving forward with a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress out of “political opportunism.”

The House is set to vote as soon as Wednesday on the contempt charges, which would refer Garland for criminal prosecution to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia over allegations he impeded Republicans’ impeachment inquiry by refusing access to audio recordings of President Joe Biden’s interview with former special counsel Robert Hur. The Department of Justice has already published the full transcripts of those interviews, with Raskin arguing in an 18-page memo to Democratic committee members on Tuesday that listening to the recordings “will not change the content of these interviews.”

“Desperate to blame someone — anyone — for the utter failure of this impeachment inquiry, Republicans have contrived an allegation that Attorney General Merrick Garland has impeded their impeachment inquiry by preventing them from hearing President Biden’s interview with Special Counsel Hur by withholding the audio recording,” Raskin wrote. “Hearing the President’s words rather than reading them … certainly will not reveal any new evidence of an impeachable offense.”

Republicans on both the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, which advanced the contempt resolutions against Garland last month, insist the audio is necessary to assess Biden’s state of memory and whether Hur, who was investigating the president’s handling of classified documents, “appropriately carried out justice.”

Hur decided not to charge Biden in February in part because he judged that a jury would find him to be an “elderly man with a poor memory.”

Raskin’s memo echoes the White House in arguing the documents and materials subpoenaed by House Republicans in February, including the audio tapes, are unnecessary because they “already know everything the President said in the interview.”

However, Republicans argue the recordings could reveal “verbal nuances” in Biden’s answers that may help determine whether he intentionally “abused his office of public trust for his family’s financial gain.” Raskin called that idea “simply ludicrous.”

“Committee Republicans appear to be claiming both (1) that the transcripts and audio recording contain the same information, such that by producing one, the White House has waived privilege as to both,” Raskin wrote in the memo, “and (2) that they are different information, such that despite already having the transcript, the audio recordings contain ‘evidence important to the Committee’s inquiry’ that somehow is not captured by the transcript.”

The contempt push comes after the White House cited executive privilege in deciding to block the audio release of Hur’s interview with Biden at Garland’s request, calling the decision “a longstanding commitment to protecting the integrity, effectiveness, and independence of the Department of Justice” and its investigations.

Republicans have accused the White House of blocking their release because it could prove politically damaging in an election year.

“The American people will not be able to hear why prosecutors felt the president of the United States was, in special counsel Robert Hur’s own words, an ‘elderly man with a poor memory,’ and thus shouldn’t be charged,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) told reporters at the time.

Meanwhile, Raskin accused Republicans of pushing the contempt resolution forward as a way to distract from an impeachment inquiry into the Biden family that has stalled in recent months, with some centrist GOP lawmakers reluctant to impeach the president. 

Now, the ranking member argued, they are looking to use Garland as the scapegoat in case no articles of impeachment materialize. 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

“Republicans are desperate both to insinuate that some evidence against the President still remains to be uncovered and to claim that their 17-month impeachment effort failed to find any evidence of an impeachable offense because someone has withheld that evidence,” Raskin wrote. “As such, Republicans have manufactured the allegation that Attorney General Garland has obstructed their impeachment inquiry by withholding the tape of President Biden’s interview with Special Counsel Hur.”

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the contempt resolutions on Tuesday, nearly a month after it advanced to the House floor. A vote by the full House would then be held as soon as Wednesday.

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