Justice Department Declines To Prosecute AG Garland Over Congressional Contempt Charge

 June 14, 2024

The U.S. Department of Justice has announced it will not pursue a case against Attorney General Merrick Garland concerning his recent contempt of Congress citation.

The decision follows a contentious House vote that charged Garland for not disclosing an audio recording from an interview between President Joe Biden and special counsel Robert Hur, Fox News reported.

The controversy began when the House, led by Speaker Mike Jr immediately, escalated its pursuit of the audio recording, which detailed President Biden’s interactions with Hur. The House subsequently voted 216-207 to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for failing to deliver the recording. This move has sparked significant debate about the boundaries of congressional authority and the protection of executive branch confidentiality.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte defended the DOJ’s position, stating that their refusal to prosecute stems from a long-standing policy. This policy asserts that non-compliance with a contempt citation does not warrant prosecution if the official's actions are not criminally liable.

DOJ Upholds Precedent in Non-Prosecution Decision

The Justice Department’s decision mirrors a similar circumstance in 2019 when then-Attorney General Bill Barr was not prosecuted following a contempt citation under comparable conditions. This consistency in handling cases of executive non-compliance highlights the DOJ's dedication to precedent, emphasizing the complex interplay between the executive branch and congressional oversight.

Amidst these proceedings, the DOJ made significant attempts to cooperate with congressional demands. According to Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte's explanations, these efforts included providing unredacted documents, facilitating necessary testimony, and producing relevant transcripts to the committees in question.

Carlos Felipe Uriarte elaborated on these efforts in an official letter, suggesting that the DOJ had gone to considerable lengths to meet congressional requests without compromising the integrity of executive investigations.

Today’s vote disregards the constitutional separation of powers, the Justice Department’s need to protect its investigations, and the substantial amount of information we have provided to the Committees, echoed AG Garland lamenting the recent congressional actions as a potential overreach.

Partisan Views on the Congressional Request

The quest for the audio file by Republican House members was driven by a keen interest in uncovering further details from Hur’s interview with Biden, suggesting it could provide critical insights into the President’s state of mind during the discussions. Conversely, Democratic members have criticized this persistent demand as a partisan maneuver designed to undermine the President politically.

Special counsel Robert Hur, after concluding his investigation, stated that although no criminal charges against Biden were warranted, the feasibility of pursuing a high-profile legal battle given Biden’s age and supposed mental faculties posed considerable challenges.

Garland Stands Firm Amid Congressional Pressure

Following the vote, AG Merrick Garland articulated his disappointment, viewing the congressional move as an undermining of the separation of powers essential to U.S. governance. He committed to defending the integrity and essential functions of the DOJ against what he perceives as misuse of power by Congress.

In conclusion, while the Justice Department has chosen not to prosecute Attorney General Merrick Garland, the incident underscores ongoing tensions between the legislative and executive branches. The decision, based on longstanding DOJ policy and precedent, reflects the intricate balance of power and the challenges in maintaining governmental integrity amidst politically charged requests.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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