Biden Asserts Executive Privilege Over Tapes In Docs Probe

 President Joe Biden has asserted executive privilege over audio recordings from special counsel Robert Hur‘s investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents that further raised questions about the commander-in-chief’s mental acuity as he runs for a second term.

The decision was conveyed to House leaders on Thursday in the hours before a pair of GOP-led committees were expected to move forward with contempt of Congress proceedings against Attorney General Merrick Garland for refusing to fully comply with subpoenas from February that demanded tapes of Hur’s two-day interview with Biden and of the special counsel’s interview with Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer.

“It is the longstanding position of the executive branch held by administrations of both parties that an official who asserts the President’s claim of executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Uriarte wrote in a letter.

House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-KY) and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) received the letter ahead of their panels’ scheduled meetings on Thursday to initiate contempt of Congress proceedings against Garland over the audio. The sought-after materials “are necessary to determine whether sufficient grounds exist to draft” articles of impeachment against Biden, said a recent House Judiciary report.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said in a statement reported by The Washington Post that Republicans are “trying to blame Attorney General Merrick Garland for their own protracted comedy of errors,” adding, “it’s delightfully absurd to suggest that listening to the President’s words instead of just reading them will suddenly reveal” an impeachable crime.

In his letter, Uriarte stressed the committees “ought not proceed with contempt and should instead avoid unnecessary and unwarranted conflict” as Biden had “asserted executive privilege over the requested audio recordings and is making a protective assertion of privilege over any remaining materials responsive to the subpoenas that have not already been produced.”

His letter also said, “We have repeatedly made clear that disclosure of the subpoenaed audio recordings would damage future law enforcement efforts and that the Committee’s continued demands raise serious separation of powers concerns.” Uriarte additionally noted “substantial efforts” to accommodate the demands from Comer and Jordan, including providing transcripts of the interviews and correspondence regarding Hur’s report.

Edward Siskel, counsel to the president, also reportedly sent a letter to House Republicans.

“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,” Siskel wrote. “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.”


The report from special counsel Hur’s team was released in February after roughly a year of investigation. It criticized Biden’s retention of classified records while out of office, describing Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” whom a jury likely would not convict “of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.” Prosecutors ultimately declined to recommend charges against the president.

Hur also found that Zwonitzer deleted recordings of conversations he had with Biden upon learning about the documents inquiry. But the ghostwriter provided “plausible, innocent reasons” for his actions during the interview and Hur’s team said they ultimately determined the evidence would not suffice for a conviction on obstruction of justice, according to the special counsel report.

Biden and the White House have pushed back against Hur’s characterizations in his report, but Garland insisted that it would have been “absurd” for someone in his position to have edited or censored the special counsel’s explanation.

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