Luna proposes fining Garland $10K per day instead of taking him into custody

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) is proposing a less dramatic way to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in “inherent contempt” of Congress over his refusal to turn over the audio from President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur regarding his handling of classified documents.

Rather than directing the House sergeant-at-arms to take Garland into custody to enforce the GOP subpoena for the tapes, a resolution from Luna filed Friday would fine Garland $10,000 per day until he complies.

“This version of inherent contempt will become standard practice for those who seek to undermine Congress as an equal branch of government,” Luna said in a post on the social media website X on Friday.

The new resolution comes as Luna faced GOP pushback to her proposal to arrest and detain Garland, and questions about how it would logistically work. It is also not entirely clear how the House could force Garland to pay the fines now suggested by Luna.

It also comes as House GOP leaders are pursuing an alternative method of getting Garland to comply with their subpoena, and after voting to hold Garland in contempt of Congress earlier this month: On Monday, the House Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit to force Garland to turn over the tapes.

Luna argued against waiting for a lawsuit in a post on X last week: “A lawsuit can take years … This is a national security issue,” Luna said, in reference to memory issues that Hur had highlighted.

The special counsel said that any jury in a classified documents case would likely see Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” citing portions of the interview in which Biden had trouble remembering dates or arguments about Afghanistan policy. Biden’s counsel retorted that the “gratuitous” language by Hur “is not supported by the facts, nor is it appropriately used by a federal prosecutor in this context.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) provided the House a written transcript of the conversation, and Biden has claimed executive privilege over the tapes. But Republicans argue that because the DOJ provided the transcript, it cannot withhold the audio, which it says it needs to ensure the transcript is accurate.

Luna’s previous inherent contempt resolution would have directed the Speaker to “issue a warrant commanding the Sergeant at Arms or the deputy of the Sergeant at Arms to take into custody the body of Attorney General Garland wherever found” and keep him in custody. It would mark the first such use of inherent contempt in nearly 100 years.

While Luna had pledged that she would make a privileged move to force a vote on the matter last week, she did not.

On Friday, Luna told The Hill that attendance issues were a factor in her holding off, and that she would be bringing up a new contempt resolution that had the support of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), who she had talked to on the House floor multiple times over the week.

Johnson has not confirmed his support for the new resolution that would fine Garland $10,000 per day.

Asked about Luna’s inherent contempt push on Friday, Johnson expressed his preference for making Garland comply by going through the court system.

“The easiest way, the best way, is to allow the third branch to resolve this dispute between the executive and legislative branch,” Johnson said. “There may be other avenues that we can pursue, and we’re looking into all that, but we’re not committed to anything yet.”

“What Anna Paulina Luna and I and all House Republicans agree upon is that we’ve got to use every tool in the toolbox here, so to speak, because this is very, very serious,” Johnson added.

On X on Friday, Luna indicated that the new version “will be brought to the floor this upcoming session week,” indicating that she could make a move to force a vote on it. The House, which is out for the Independence Day holiday, returns on Monday.

Several of Luna’s colleagues expressed reservations about Luna’s previous inherent contempt resolution that would have directed Garland’s arrest, raising questions about whether her move to force a vote would have been successful in the slim House GOP majority.

“I just cannot [be] supportive of individual members to escalate an inherent contempt effort to go then arrest him at the Department of Justice and bring him back to confinement,” Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) told The Hill last week. “I mean this is, this is an extraordinary measure, and I don’t think it’s something we should do lightly.”

Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), the only Republican to oppose holding Garland in contempt of Congress earlier this month, had also signaled that he would vote against Luna’s push for inherent contempt.

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