Draft contempt report accuses Garland of ‘hindering’ GOP impeachment probe

A draft report from House Republicans advocating for holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress accuses him of having hindered and impeded their impeachment inquiry into President Biden by withholding an audio recording of his conversation with special counsel Robert Hur.

The draft document, obtained by The Hill, will serve as the grounds for the report the House Judiciary Committee will consider next week as it mulls whether to forward the contempt resolution to the full House floor.

“Its failure to fully comply with the Committees’ subpoenas has hindered the House’s ability to adequately conduct oversight over Special Counsel Hur regarding his investigative findings and the President’s retention and disclosure of classified materials and impeded the Committees’ impeachment inquiry,” the draft report states.

The bid to get an audio recording of the interview comes as the committees have already obtained a transcript.

The draft shows the extent to which House impeachment leaders have zeroed in on a seemingly unrelated probe as it pushes ahead with its own investigation into what they’ve deemed influence peddling by members of the Biden family.

Biden’s interview with Hur instead covers how classified materials from his time as vice president ended up in both his home and an office he used after leaving the administration.

“The subpoenas issued to the Department by the Judiciary and Oversight Committees are part of the House’s impeachment inquiry,”  the committee writes in the 16-page report.

“As a part of the Committees’ inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist to draft articles of impeachment against President Biden, the Committees have sought information regarding President Biden’s mishandling of classified information. The Committees have sought this information to determine whether President Biden willfully retained classified information and documents related to, among other places, Ukraine to assist his family’s business dealings or to enrich his family. Doing so would be an abuse of his office of public trust.”

Axios first reported the conclusions of the report.

The Justice Department has turned over numerous Hur documents and even chided House Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) for failing to come to review the documents on Ukraine.

Still, they’ve asserted repeatedly that the Hur interview has little to do with the GOP impeachment inquiry.

“The Committees have received the information you requested. That information may not have substantiated the concerns the Committees articulated, but it does appear to help resolve them and your inquiry,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote to Comer and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in an earlier letter urging them to avoid conflict over the issue.

The letter goes on to assert the chairs may have requested the information for “political purposes that should have no role” in determining which law enforcement files are shared.

DOJ declined Wednesday to comment on the draft.

The Hur report includes limited references to Biden’s work in Ukraine, detailing only two documents on the matter, which include a transcript of a call he made as vice president to then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Hur places little importance on Biden’s note to preserve a copy of the transcript.

“The two exchanged pleasantries and the Prime Minister heaped praise upon Mr. Biden for his December 9, 2015 speech to Ukraine’s parliament. They did not engage in a substantive policy discussion. There may be technical or nuanced reasons to maintain the classification of the call, but no reasonable jury could conclude the call or its contents were national defense information after the end of Obama administration, or that by asking for a transcript of the call Biden intended to retain national defense information,” Hur wrote.

Impeachment investigators have yet to find a smoking gun to back their claims that Biden took any action to benefit his family, including his son, who at one point sat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Instead, authorities have arrested a former FBI informant who relayed the allegations that were central to the GOP probe, accusing the informant of fabricating his claims that Biden accepted a bribe.

Republicans already have transcripts of Biden’s interview with Hur, conducted over two days, which do not appear to include discussion of the Ukraine documents.

Still, they have argued the audio itself is essential to their work.

In letters to the Justice Department they’ve argued the format contains “revealing verbal cues” and that “a subject’s pauses and inflections can provide context or evidence of whether a subject is evasive or suffers from a ‘poor memory.’”

“The Department’s unsupported speculation about the Committees’ motives in insisting that you produce the audio recordings has no bearing on your legal obligation to produce the subpoenaed materials,” they wrote last month.

The Justice Department said sharing the audio could harm its ability to get future cooperation in investigations if subjects believe their interviews with be shared with Congress and have accused the committees of seeking the audio for political purposes.

“It seems that the more information you receive, the less satisfied you are, and the less justification you have for contempt, the more you rush towards it,” Uriarte wrote.

The contempt vote, if approved, would go from the committee to the full House floor.

Though censure of a sitting attorney general would be remarkable, it would likely have little practical effect. Contempt votes largely act as a referral to the Justice Department, which then weighs whether there are grounds for contempt of Congress charges.

This story was updated at 6:30 p.m.

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