HomeTop StoriesBiden claims executive privilege to block release of interviews with special counsel

Biden claims executive privilege to block release of interviews with special counsel

Joe Biden used executive privilege to prevent House Republicans from obtaining recordings of his interviews with Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated Biden’s retention of classified information after his time as a senator and deputy. president of Barack Obama.

In a letter reported Thursday by the New York Times and other media, White House counsel Edward Siskel told the Republican chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees: “The lack of a legitimate need for the audio recordings explains your likely purpose – to chop them up, twist them and use them for partisan political purposes.

“Requiring such sensitive and constitutionally protected law enforcement materials from the executive branch because you want to manipulate them for potential political gain is inappropriate.”

The two chairmen, Jim Jordan of Ohio (judiciary) and James Comer of Kentucky (oversight), both close allies of Donald Trump, have led Republican efforts to ensnare Biden in damaging investigations, including a sputtering impeachment.

Biden’s retention of classified information was discovered when Trump, Biden’s opponent in this year’s election, faced 40 criminal charges over the same matter.

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Unlike Trump — who faces 48 other criminal charges and has been hit with millions of dollars in civil penalties — Biden cooperated with the special counsel appointed to investigate the case.

Hur, who was appointed U.S. attorney by Trump, cleared Biden of wrongdoing. But Hur caused an uproar when he repeatedly referred to the 81-year-old president’s age in his report, saying, among other things, that if he had filed charges, jurors would have seen Biden as “a likable, well-meaning, older man with a poor memory. ”.

Hur has defended his work. Republicans have pushed for access to recordings of Hur’s interviews with Biden, especially after Biden’s own angry claims about what was said were contradicted by transcripts.

News organizations filed a lawsuit to obtain the recordings.

In Congress, Republicans threatened to hold U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt after he rejected subpoenas for the recordings and other material.

In a letter to Biden reported by the Times, Garland said that turning over Hur’s interviews “would pose an unacceptable risk” of undermining “similar high-profile criminal investigations — particularly those involving the voluntary cooperation of officials at the White House is extremely important.” .

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The Justice Department said the decision to withhold the interviews was not made for partisan reasons.

Carlos Uriarte, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, told Jordan and Comer: “It is the long-standing position of the executive branch of governments of both parties that an official who asserts the president’s claim to executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress. .”

In response, House Republicans in February cited comments in which a Biden spokesperson said the president had “nothing to hide,” and asked: “Why is Biden now hiding behind executive privilege?”

Comer said, “It’s a five-alarm fire in the White House… Today’s Hail Mary from the White House changes nothing for our committee.”

Jordan told reporters that the transcripts already submitted were not “sufficient evidence of the state of the President’s memory” and said: “This last-minute call does not change the fact that the Attorney General has not complied with our subpoena. ”

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The Jordan House Judiciary Committee later voted to advance contempt proceedings against Garland. The oversight committee would look into the matter.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Biden “and his weak administration have irrevocably politicized the key constitutional principle of executive privilege, denying it to their political opponents while aggressively seeking to use it to gain political cover.” bidding for Crooked Joe”.

But Glenn Ivey, a Maryland Democrat who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, told the Times that Republicans’ demands were “purely political.”

“The only reason they want the recording is to use clips for campaign ads, or something along those lines, which clearly does not meet the statutory target standard that the Supreme Court has set for congressional oversight.”

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