Speaker Johnson says House will go to court for Biden audio after Justice Dept. refused to prosecute

Speaker Mike Johnson announced Friday that, after the Justice Department declined to prosecute Republicans for contempt of Congress charges, the House would go to court in order to enforce the subpoena issued against Attorney General Merrick G. Garland to gain access to the audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with the special counsel.

Johnson, in a press release, said that it was “sadly predictable” that the Justice Department of the Biden administration would not prosecute Garland because he refused to comply with congressional subpoenas. However the department had aggressively prosecuted Steve Bannon for the same offense. This is just another example of the Biden administration’s two-tiered justice system.

A Justice Department official wrote to Johnson on Friday that the department’s “longstanding policy and uniform practice” is to not prosecute those officials who do not comply with subpoenas due to a president’s claim to executive privilege.

Last month, the Democratic president invoked executive privilege in order to prevent the release of audio that the White House claims Republicans only want for political reasons. Republicans voted to punish Garland anyway for her refusal to release the recording.


The Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte pointed out that under the leadership of presidents from both parties, the Justice Department has refused to prosecute similar cases when executive privilege was invoked.

In the letter, Uriarte stated that the department would not “bring the congressional contempt complaint before a grand jury or take any action to prosecute Attorney General”. The letter didn’t specify who at the Justice Department had made the decision.

Republicans were furious when Robert Hur, the special counsel, declined to bring charges against Biden for his handling of classified information and opened an investigation. Jim Jordan and James Comer, two GOP members, sent a subpoena to the Justice Department for audio recordings of Hur’s interview with Biden. However, the Justice Department turned over only some records.

Republicans claim that the White House has suppressed the recording because the president does not want voters to hear it in an election year. Jordan’s spokesperson criticized Friday the Justice Department for its move, saying “the rule of law is for you, but not me.”

The transcript of the Hur Interview showed Biden having trouble recalling some dates, and sometimes confusing certain details. This is something that he has done in public and in private for many years. However, he was able to remember other things well. Biden’s aides and he are sensitive to any questions regarding his age. He is the oldest president in history, at 81 years old. He is seeking a second four-year term.

Attorney General said that the Justice Department went to great lengths to inform lawmakers about Hur’s case. Garland, however, has stated that releasing the audio may jeopardize sensitive future investigations as witnesses could be less willing to cooperate when they are aware their interviews will become public.

Ed Siskel, White House Counsel, accused Republicans in a letter sent last month about Biden’s decision asserting executive privilege of seeking recordings to “chop up” and distort to attack the President. Executive privilege allows presidents to withhold information from courts, Congress, and the public in order to protect their decision-making process. However, it can be challenged by the court.

The Justice Department stated that it had also declined to bring charges against Attorney General Bill Barr who was found in contempt of court in 2019. The Democratically-controlled House voted against Barr for refusing to hand over documents related to an investigation by a special prosecutor into the former President Donald Trump.

In a similar way, the Justice Department declined to prosecute Mark Meadows, former chief of staff of the Trump White House after he had been held in contempt by Congress for refusing to cooperate with a committee investigating the attack at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Then-Attorney-General Eric Holder had been held in contempt for the gun-running scandal known as Operation Fast and Furious. Holder was not punished by the Justice Department.

Peter Navarro, a former Trump White House official, and Steve Bannon were charged with contempt of Congress after they refused to comply with subpoenas issued by the Jan.6 committee. Both were found guilty and sentenced to 4 months in prison. Navarro is in prison since March and Bannon must report to prison on July 1.

Hur, the special counsel in Biden’s case, spent an entire year investigating President Biden’s improper retention and storage of classified documents during his time as senator and vice president. Hur stated that he did not have enough evidence to prosecute the case successfully in court.

Hur noted that Biden’s limited memory and the President’s cooperation with the investigators “could persuade some jurors he committed an innocent error.” The report described the President as someone for whom “jurors would want to identify a reasonable doubt.”