Johnson says House will go to court for Biden recordings after DOJ says it won’t prosecute AG Garland

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Friday he will move in federal court to enforce a subpoena against Attorney General Merrick Garland to obtain audio recordings of President Joe Biden, after the Justice Department declined to act on the House’s contempt referral.

Johnson said in a statement that he disagrees with the DOJ’s decision, calling it “another example of the two-tiered system of justice brought to us by the Biden Administration.”

“I will be certifying the contempt reports to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia,” the Louisiana Republican said. “We will also move to enforce the subpoena of Attorney General Garland in federal court.”

In a letter to Johnson earlier Friday, DOJ pointed to its “longstanding” position of not prosecuting executive branch officials who withhold information subject to executive privilege from Congress.

The announcement was anticipated after the House, in a mostly party-line vote, held Garland in contempt for not turning over audio from Biden’s interview in special counsel Robert Hur’s classified documents investigation.

“Consistent with this longstanding position and uniform practice, the Department has determined that the responses by Attorney General Garland to the subpoenas issued by the Committees did not constitute a crime, and accordingly the Department will not bring the congressional contempt citation before a grand jury or take any other action to prosecute the Attorney General,” the letter, from the department’s top congressional liaison, said.

Republican lawmakers have argued that access to the tapes would provide more information, transparency and oversight around the investigation into a sitting US president.

On Wednesday, every Republican in the House except one – Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio – voted to hold Garland in contempt of Congress.

While the Justice Department has defended its decision to not turn over the audio recordings of Biden’s interviews with Hur and his team – claiming the decision was made in part to protect this and future investigations – the Justice Department did make public transcripts of those interviews.

In describing the interviews, Hur said that Biden presented himself “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

At the time, Biden ridiculed Hur’s report and questions about his memory.

“Their task was to make a decision over whether to move forward with charges in this case,” Biden said during a press conference following the report, noting that Hur did not move forward with charges. “For any extraneous commentary they don’t know what they’re talking about. It has not place in this report.”

CNN has sued for access to the audio recordings, writing in the April lawsuit that “without access to any of the interview records, the press and public initially could not form their own conclusions about Hur’s characterization of Biden. … Transcripts, however, are no substitute for recordings.”

In a statement following the vote to hold him in contempt, Garland said Republicans had turned “a serious congressional authority into a partisan weapon” and that he was “deeply disappointed.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Annie Grayer contributed to this report.

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