Speaker Mike Johnson seeks court order after DOJ won't prosecute AG Merrick Garland

By Ehren Wynder & Mike Heuer
The Justice Department said Attorney General Merrick Garland's refusal to answer a congressional subpeona "did not constitute a crime." File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
1 of 2 | The Justice Department said Attorney General Merrick Garland's refusal to answer a congressional subpeona "did not constitute a crime." File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

June 14 (UPI) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson said he is going to a court in an attempt to receive audiotapes of President Joe Biden's investigation after the Justice Department refused to prosecute Attorney General Merrick Garland for contempt of Congress.

"It is sadly predictable that the Biden administration's Justice Department will not prosecute Garland for defying congressional subpoenas even though the department aggressively prosecuted Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro for the same thing," Johnson, R-La., said in a statement Friday.


"This is yet another example of the two-tiered system of justice brought to us by the Biden administration," he added.

Johnson said he will certify contempt reports to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and will "move to enforce the subpoena of Attorney General Garland in federal court."


The DOJ on Friday said it will not prosecute Garland after House Republicans voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over audiotapes from Biden's classified documents investigation.

In a letter to Johnson, Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte said the Justice Department has a "longstanding" position of not prosecuting executive branch officials for withholding information.

"Consistent with this longstanding position and uniform practice, the department has determined that the responses by Attorney General Garland to the subpoenas issued by the committees did not constitute a crime, and accordingly the department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the attorney general," the letter read.

The Justice Department also argued Garland is exempt from prosecution because Biden asserted executive privilege over the recordings of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

The decision is consistent with the Justice Department's two previous refusals of congressional contempt resolutions against Garland's predecessors Eric Holder and Bill Barr.

The House on Wednesday voted 216-207, mostly along party lines, to hold Garland in contempt for ignoring a subpoena for the audio recordings.

Johnson at the time said the vote was a "significant step in maintaining the integrity of our oversight processes and responsibilities."


Garland, however, wrote to the House that it "turned a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon."

"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," Garland wrote.

The audiotapes feature hours of Hur questioning Biden about how classified documents ended up in his home.

Hur in his report determined Biden "willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen" but "does not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hur said he chose not to prosecute Biden because a jury would view him as a "sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory."

Transcripts of the interview are available online, and the Justice Department previously handed over correspondence with Biden's lawyers, but the House GOP wanted the audio log, as well, to determine whether there was anything relevant to a potential Biden impeachment.

Garland had said releasing the tapes could impede cooperation with future investigations of the White House, and Congress had no "legitimate" reason to need them.

Johnson, however, argued "it is up to Congress -- not the executive branch -- to determine what materials it needs to conduct its own investigations and there are consequences for refusing to comply with lawful congressional subpoenas."


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