House Republicans propose contempt for Biden ghostwriter

The House Judiciary Committee is set to weigh a contempt referral for President Biden’s ghostwriter, seeking to tee up criminal charges after failing to secure audio of the president’s interviews.

The committee subpoenaed Mark Zwonitzer in March after requesting both the ghostwriter’s notes and audio recordings of his conversations with Biden.

“Special Counsel Hur’s report unequivocally provides that ‘During many of the interviews with his ghostwriter, Biden read from his notebooks nearly verbatim, sometimes for an hour or more at a time,’ and ‘at least three times Biden read classified notes from national security meetings to [you] nearly verbatim.’ Based on the information in Special Counsel Hur’s report, President Biden’s assertion that he never shared classified information with you appears to be false,” Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) wrote in February when initially requesting the information.

It’s not clear however that Zwonitzer would be able to fully comply with the subpoena.

Hur’s report notes that Zwonitzer deleted the audio recordings from his computer once the investigation was announced, with law enforcement ultimately recovering the audio files. He did, however, retain the transcripts.

“The material sought by the subpoena does not relate to any legislative interest as set out by the committee. The materials, as referenced in Special Counsel’s Report, and cited in the Committee’s letters, are almost all, if not all, personal in nature, and could not possibly assist in formulating future legislation,” Zwonitzer’s attorney wrote in an April response to Jordan reviewed by The Hill.

“To the extent that Mr. Zwonitzer provided materials or documents to Special Counsel, as you reference in your letters, we suggest that the production of the materials you now seek from Mr. Zwonitzer, is a matter to be resolved between the Committees and the Department of Justice.”

Zwonitzer’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hur did not recommend criminal charges for Zwonitzer, writing that “the evidence falls short of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zwonitzer intended to impede an investigation.”

The move comes after House Republicans voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for failing to turn over audio tapes of Biden’s conversation with special counsel Robert Hur.

If advanced by the committee, the contempt resolution for Zwonitzer would then move to the full House. Even if it is approved on the floor, however, it would simply act as a referral to the Department of Justice, which must then weigh whether to pursue criminal charges.

The Justice Department swiftly determined it would not pursue charges against Garland, noting that administrations of both parties have not done so when a president has claimed executive privilege over the materials, as Biden did with the audio.

Updated at 6:07 p.m. EDT

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