Updated May 16, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden shields audio of special counsel interview from House GOP

President Biden, wearing a blue suit, white shirt and blue and white striped tie, speaking at a table flanked by Pentagon officials.

President Biden. Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.

President Biden has asserted executive privilege to deny House Republicans audio recordings of his interview with special counsel Robert Hur, the Justice Department revealed on Thursday.

Why it matters: The disclosure comes just before a pair of House committees plan to vote on holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the audio.

What they're saying: "I write to inform you that the President has asserted executive privilege over the requested audio recordings," Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte wrote in a letter obtained by Axios.

  • In the letter, addressed to House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), Uriarte wrote that the DOJ has made "substantial efforts" to comply with their probe.
  • That included providing Hur's report, transcripts of the special counsel's interviews and several other documents related to the probe.
  • But Garland, he wrote, "must draw a line that safeguards the Department from improper political influence and protects our principles, our law enforcement work, and the people who carry out that work."

Zoom in: Garland, in a letter to Biden on Wednesday recommending he assert executive privilege, wrote that releasing the audio would "damage future law enforcement efforts."

  • He argued that House Republicans have not given a compelling reason to override those concerns.

The backdrop: Hur, who investigated Biden's handling of classified documents from his time as his vice president, detailed Biden's memory lapses in his final report.

  • In outlining his decision not to prosecute Biden, Hur wrote that Biden would likely come to a jury as a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."
  • Republicans moved swiftly to open a probe and try to make public as much material from Hur's probe as possible, arguing that the public has a right to the information.

Between the lines: In a separate letter to Comer and Jordan, White House attorney Edward Siskel wrote, "The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal—to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes."

  • "Demanding such sensitive and constitutionally-protected law enforcement materials from the Executive Branch because you want to manipulate them for potential political gain is inappropriate," he added.
  • Spokespeople for Jordan and Comer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Go deeper: Justice Department fight with House GOP heats up over Biden recording

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details.

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