House Judiciary advances resolution to hold Biden ghostwriter in contempt

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday forwarded a resolution to hold President Biden’s ghostwriter in contempt of Congress, its second such effort to censure those connected with the probe into the president’s handling of classified records.

The resolution to hold Mark Zwonitzer in contempt will now go to the full House for consideration, with Democrats accusing Republicans of abusing their power by going after a private citizen.

Zwonitzer, who helped pen Biden’s memoir, was roped into special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation as he reviewed whether the president shared any musings on classified materials referenced in his personal notebooks while working with the ghostwriter.

Republicans have asked Zwonitzer to turn over his notes as well as recordings of his conversations with Biden, but the ghostwriter demurred, noting through his attorney that the Justice Department is in possession of all his materials.

Zwonitzer has also said many of their conversations were personal in nature, questioning whether the committee has a valid legislative purpose in seeking them and asking them to resolve the issue with the executive branch.

“I am not surprised that the majority has taken this ridiculous fight with the executive branch to a private citizen. They are bullies,” Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) said at the outset of the hearing.

“Mr. Zwonitzer is not in a position to determine what materials he can share with this committee, especially when the executive branch has asserted significant interest in this material. Going after a private citizen, who is now caught between two branches of government, is not only legally bankrupt, but also an unjustified abuse of power.”

Republicans’ targeting of Zwonitzer comes after they voted earlier this month to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress after he failed to turn over audio recordings of Hur’s conversation with Biden, for which they already have the transcript.

House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) gave multiple rationales for seeking Zwonitzer’s tapes, suggesting both that they would provide insight into what Biden shared with his ghostwriter and whether Hur erred in failing to bring charges against both men.

Zwonitzer initially deleted the audio recordings of his Biden interview, but they were recovered by law enforcement.

But Jordan also said they would help the public weigh Hur’s comments about Biden’s memory.

“Put simply, they are the best evidence of the president’s mental state,” Jordan said.

The White House took the unusual step of penning a letter to Jordan on the matter, accusing him of working “to harass and intimidate a private citizen” and calling it an “obvious example of the very weaponization of government for political purposes that you claim to decry.”

Zwonitzer’s position as a private citizen was a running theme throughout the hearing for Democrats.

“As they say, in ‘The Godfather,’ this is the profession that we’ve chosen. We’ve chosen to be in the public light, but this guy’s a ghostwriter. By profession, he sought to stay out of the limelight,” said Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.).

“And here we are. Going to hit him with a contempt.”

Such resolutions when approved by the House serve as a referral to the Department of Justice, which must then determine whether charges are warranted.

The Justice Department swiftly rejected calls to prosecute Garland, noting that Biden asserted executive privilege over the tapes and that administrations of both parties have declined to bring charges in cases where the protection has been claimed.

The department has otherwise declined to comment on Zwonitzer.

Hur declined to prosecute Zwonitzer in connection with his investigation, writing that “the evidence falls short of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zwonitzer intended to impede an investigation.”

Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.