Biden Claims Executive Privilege Over Hur Interview Audio

Republicans threaten to hold AG in contempt of Congress
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 16, 2024 8:37 AM CDT
Biden Claims Executive Privilege Over Hur Interview Audio
President Joe Biden, right, sitting next to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, left, speaks at the beginning of his meeting with the Combatant Commanders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, before hosting them for a dinner.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Biden has asserted executive privilege over audio of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur that's at the center of a Republican effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress, the Justice Department told lawmakers Thursday. House Republicans have set two committee votes to recommend the full House refer Garland to the DOJ for contempt charges over the department's refusal to hand over the audio, per the AP. Garland advised Biden in a letter Thursday that the audio falls within the scope of executive privilege and the "committee's needs are plainly insufficient to outweigh the deleterious effects that the production of the recordings would have on the integrity and effectiveness of similar law enforcement investigations in the future."

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte urged lawmakers not to proceed with the contempt effort to avoid "unnecessary and unwarranted conflict." "It is the longstanding position of the executive branch held by administrations of both parties that an official who asserts the president's claim of executive privilege cannot be held in contempt of Congress," Uriarte wrote. White House Counsel Ed Siskel wrote in a separate, scathing letter to Congress on Thursday that lawmakers' effort to obtain the recording was absent any legitimate purpose and lays bare their likely goal—"to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes."

The White House memo is a tacit admission that there are moments from the interview it fears portray Biden in a negative light in an election year—and that could be exacerbated by the release, or selective release, of the audio. The transcript of the Hur interview showed Biden struggling to recall some dates and occasionally confusing some details—something longtime aides says he's done for years in both public and private—but otherwise showing deep recall in other areas. Hur found some evidence that Biden had willfully retained classified information and disclosed it to a ghostwriter but concluded that it was insufficient for criminal charges. (More executive privilege stories.)

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