House Rules Committee to weigh Garland contempt next week

The House Rules Committee will consider a resolution to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress next week, potentially clearing the way for a full House vote on the lingering legislation.

The Tuesday meeting could indicate a shift in GOP dynamics after at least two Republicans privately said they planned to vote against the resolution.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said this week that lawmakers were buoyed by the recent guilty verdict handed down by a New York jury in former President Trump’s hush money case.

The contempt vote has been in limbo since last month, when two committees forwarded the legislation to censure Garland, an action that was overshadowed by a raucous House Oversight and Accountability Committee meeting.

Their scheduled markup was delayed to allow members to travel to former President Trump’s New York trial, and in the late night session Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) kicked off a fight by commenting on Rep. Jasmine Crockett’s (D-Texas) use of false eyelashes.

But another barrier has been the content of the resolution itself.

Republicans have strained to connect their subpoena of Garland to their impeachment investigation into President Biden.

Republicans on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees have demanded the audio recording of Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur conducted as part of his classified documents probe.

Garland had resisted, noting that Republicans already have a transcript of the interview that makes clear none of the matters related to the GOP impeachment investigation were discussed.

And Biden gave Garland further legal cover, claiming executive privilege over the recordings. Democrats have mused that Republicans only want the recording to use in campaign commercials.

Garland during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday defended his decision, noting that GOP lawmakers have failed to provide any legislative purpose for needing the tapes, giving little rationale for him to take an action he said could chill the Justice Department’s ability to secure future interviews.

Garland noted the lawmakers already had five hours of testimony from Hur, while calling the effort to censure him “only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the Justice Department’s work.”

“I view contempt as a serious matter. But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations,” he told the panel.

If the resolution passes out of the Rules Committee, it will go to the full House floor for a vote.

But the legislation essentially serves as a referral to the Justice Department, which would then be tasked with determining whether it believes a crime was committed and if charges should be brought.

It’s unlikely that Justice Department officials would come to a different conclusion than Garland when weighing whether he should face prosecution.

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