DOJ Will Not Prosecute Merrick Garland After House Contempt Ruling

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has decided not to prosecute Attorney General Merrick Garland after the House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt of Congress. The House vote, which ended with a 216 to 207 decision, was in response to Garland’s refusal to comply with Congressional subpoenas related to the investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte informed House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) that President Joe Biden asserted executive privilege, directing Garland not to release the subpoenaed materials. This directive, based on a DOJ legal opinion, aimed to protect sensitive information.

The subpoenas, issued by the House Oversight and Accountability Committee and the Judiciary Committee, demanded access to various documents, including transcripts and audio recordings from Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation. Despite providing unredacted reports and facilitating Hur’s testimony, the DOJ faced criticism for not releasing audio tapes of Hur’s interview with Biden, which revealed significant memory lapses.

Uriarte emphasized that the DOJ would not prosecute an official for contempt of Congress when the information sought is protected by executive privilege. This policy aligns with past practices, such as the 2019 contempt citations against former Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, which did not lead to prosecutions.

The DOJ’s decision starkly contrasts with the recent case of Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist for Donald Trump, who was sentenced to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. Bannon’s conviction was upheld by an appeals court, and he is scheduled to report to prison on July 1.

The DOJ concluded that Garland’s actions did not constitute a criminal offense, leading to the decision not to pursue the contempt charge. This outcome highlights the complexities of executive privilege and the legal protections afforded to high-ranking government officials.

As political tensions continue to rise, the DOJ’s decision underscores the ongoing debate over accountability and the limits of executive power in the face of Congressional oversight.

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