WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Merrick Garland will not be prosecuted for contempt of Congress because his refusal to turn over audio of President Joe Biden’s interview in his classified documents case “did not constitute a crime,” the Justice Department said Friday.

In a letter to House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Justice Department official cited the department’s longstanding policy not to prosecute for contempt of Congress officials who don’t comply with subpoenas because of a president’s claim of executive privilege.

The House voted Wednesday to hold Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the audio recordings of Biden’s interview with a special counsel, which the White House has accused Republicans of wanting only so they can chop them up and use them for political purposes.

On the last day to comply with the Republicans’ subpoena for the audio, the White House blocked the release by invoking executive privilege.

The 216-207 vote fell along party lines, with Republicans coalescing behind the contempt effort despite reservations among some of the party’s more centrist members.

Only one Republican, Rep. David Joyce of Ohio, voted against it.

Joe Biden’s classified documents probe report

  • Special counsel Robert Hur determined that President Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after leaving office as vice president in 2016.
  • The records kept by Biden included documents on military and foreign policy in Afghanistan as well as other national security and foreign policy issues.

  • Biden kept the classified documents in part to assist with the writing of his memoirs. According to the report, Biden told a ghostwriter in a 2017 conversation that he had “just found all the classified stuff downstairs.”
  • Despite the findings, Hur’s 388-page report recommended that the president not face charges.
  • The special counsel noted that Biden would likely present himself to a jury as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” if he were to face trial.

Garland is the third attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress.

He has defended the Justice Department, saying officials have gone to extraordinary lengths to provide information to the committees about special counsel Robert Hur’s classified documents investigation, including a transcript of Biden’s interview with him.

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