Merrick Garland's fate hangs in balance as House begins contempt vote

The House of Representatives is voting on whether to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress over his failure to produce audio recordings of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden.

Hur’s findings cleared Biden of wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents but also said the 81-year-old president presented himself “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and “it would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him-by then a former president well into his eighties-of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Biden and his allies aggressively pushed back on concerns about his mental fitness in the report’s wake.

Republicans seeking the audio recording argue it would provide critical context about Biden’s state of mind. Democrats, meanwhile, have dismissed the request as a partisan attempt to politicize the Department of Justice (DOJ).

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House Speaker Mike Johnson, right, is teeing up a vote on a contempt of Congress resolution against Attorney General Merrick Garland. (Getty Images/File)

The pursuit of Hur’s audio tapes is part of the House GOP’s wider impeachment inquiry into Biden, investigating allegations he used his political position to enrich himself and his family. Biden has denied accusations of wrongdoing.

And while the majority of Republicans have indicated they support the measure, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has little wiggle room: He can only lose two votes on any party-line measure.

Two Republicans – Reps. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., and Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., told Fox News Digital they are still unsure about how they’ll vote.

“I still have to go through the final decision process. But if they’ve already released the transcripts, it doesn’t seem to me like there’s any legal leg to stand on to not release the actual videos. To me, that seems like something they should do,” Newhouse said.

Ciscomani said, “I want to understand exactly the purpose behind that before I comment on it.”

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House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., criticized the moderates’ indecision.

“If moderates don’t agree that Merrick Garland needs to be censured by not turning over audio which solidifies whatever the testimony is, that would shock me,” Norman said.

Republicans are moving against Garland over the DOJ’s refusal to release audio tapes of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interview with President Biden. (Getty Images/File)

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., said she would aim to force a vote on her own inherent contempt resolution against Garland if the DOJ fails to go after him if the Wednesday resolution passes. An inherent contempt resolution would direct the House’s sergeant at arms to arrest its target rather than passing it to the DOJ.

“As of right now, we fully intend to bring it,” Luna said. “I don’t really have much faith in the Department of Justice. And I don’t think the American people do either. But we are trying to bring back a level playing field and show that, you know, there should be accountability all the way up to the top.”

Democrats, meanwhile, blasted the GOP effort. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., said, “This is what they want to do because they don’t have the votes to impeach Joe Biden, right? That’s why they did Merrick Garland. That’s why they went after [Hunter Biden]. It’s all trying to please their base because Congress doesn’t want to do what Donald Trump wants, which is to impeach Joe Biden so they can have even scores.”

Their targeting of Garland is part of a wider GOP effort to crack down on alleged weaponization of the DOJ by Biden’s officials. That also includes various pieces of legislation and public threats to defund various aspects of the department, including the special counsel currently investigating former President Trump.

Fox News Digital reached out to the DOJ for comment on the contempt resolution against Garland.

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Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., had led Democrat opposition to the measure. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon/File)

Garland took an indirect shot at Republicans’ pushback on the DOJ in a Washington Post op-ed on Tuesday morning.

“In recent weeks, we have seen an escalation of attacks that go far beyond public scrutiny, criticism, and legitimate and necessary oversight of our work. They are baseless, personal and dangerous,” he wrote. “These attacks come in the form of threats to defund particular department investigations, most recently the special counsel’s prosecution of the former president.”

Elizabeth Elkind is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital leading coverage of the House of Representatives. Previous digital bylines seen at Daily Mail and CBS News.

Follow on Twitter at @liz_elkind and send tips to [email protected]

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