Speaker Johnson says House will sue for Biden interview audio

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Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said the House Judiciary Committee plans to file a lawsuit to force Attorney General Merrick Garland to turn over audio tapes of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

The suit would be the latest effort to secure the tapes after the Justice Department informed Congress it would not be bringing criminal charges against Garland despite a House vote to hold him in contempt.

“We are going to file suit next week against the Department of Justice to enforce that subpoena. We will go to district court here in DC which is the appropriate venue and we will fight vigorously to get it,” Johnson told reporters Wednesday.

Lawmakers already have a transcript of Biden’s conversation with Hur, but Republicans argue hearing the tapes will provide more context about the special counsel’s commentary on the president’s memory.

The announcement of the suit comes as Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) has pledged to imminently force a vote on a resolution that would allow the House sergeant at arms to detain Garland – a process allowed through such “inherent contempt” resolutions.

Johnson was noncommittal on Luna’s motion, however, saying her plan was one of several options being considered “in the meanwhile,” adding “but I don’t think anything’s been settled on as of yet.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

An inherent contempt vote would raise sticky questions for lawmakers.

It has not been used in nearly 100 years and House rules offer little guidance for how detention of the attorney general would play out, particularly given Garland’s protective FBI detail.

Luna has described the move as necessary for enforcing the subpoena.

“This process demonstrates the seriousness with which Congress views non-compliance and the potential consequences for those who refuse to cooperate,” she wrote in a letter to colleagues earlier this week.

The Justice Department, in announcing it would not pursue charges against Garland, noted that Biden has claimed executive privilege over the audio.

The department said administrations under both parties have declined to prosecute those who failed to comply with subpoenas when executive privilege has been asserted over the materials.

Garland has accused Republicans of using contempt as a partisan tool.

Emily Brooks contributed.

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