The House has officially charged Attorney General Merrick Garland with criminal contempt of Congress. This decision represents a significant increase in tensions between congressional Republicans and the Justice Department. With a final vote of 208-207, it will make Garland one of the few attorneys general in U.S. history to undergo such a sanction.

The main problem is the Justice Department’s unwillingness to release audio tapes related to former special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation into President Joe Biden’s illegal mishandling of classified documents. Republicans, led by Jim Jordan (R-OH) and James Comer (R-KY), argue that this refusal to fully comply with a congressional subpoena should be considered contemptuous. Although Hur concluded his investigation without charging Biden, GOP lawmakers are persisting, intensifying their criticism of the Justice Department’s actions under Attorney General Merrick Garland’s leadership.

A contempt vote has been looming since last month when two committees forwarded a resolution to censure Garland. The Biden Administration has invoked executive privilege to refuse to hand over the audio. Additionally, Biden’s team admitted to editing the interview transcripts provided to lawmakers to make the president appear more coherent.

Garland refused to hand over the audio, stating that transcripts of the interview show that nothing relating to the House impeachment inquiry was discussed. “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 said while testifying before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week.

It seems unlikely that Garland would actually face contempt charges since the referral would go to his office. Still, Republicans will have done their due diligence, and then it would be up to Biden to explain his inaction and double standard.

In May, House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-KY) and Jordan (R-OH) sent a letter to Garland. The letter indicated that they were giving him an extra 10 days to fully comply with their February subpoenas. If he fails to comply, he could then face contempt of Congress proceedings. “Your response to the subpoenas remains inadequate, suggesting that you are withholding records for partisan purposes and to avoid political embarrassment for President Biden,” the pair wrote, according to a copy of the April 15 letter obtained by The Daily Caller.

The lawmakers cautioned that they would be left with “no choice but to invoke contempt of Congress proceedings” unless they were provided with the audio recordings of Hur’s interview with Biden and the special counsel’s interview with Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer. “To avoid this, the Committees expect you to produce all responsive materials no later than 12:00 p.m. on April 25, 2024,” Comer and Jordan noted further.

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Disclaimer: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author’s opinion.