House Republicans Grill Garland Over Alleged 'Despicable' Conduct Against Trump

House Republicans Grill Garland Over Alleged 'Despicable' Conduct Against Trump

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
June 4, 2024

WASHINGTON D.C.—Threatened with a contempt of Congress charge, Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to face accusations of withholding subpoenaed records and meddling in former President Donald Trump's trial.

He wholeheartedly denied it all—and a lively five-and-a-half-hour hearing ensued.

"Certain members of this Committee and the Oversight Committee are seeking contempt as a means of obtaining—for no legitimate purpose—sensitive law enforcement information that could harm the integrity of future investigations," said Garland during his Tuesday hearing. "This effort is only the most recent in a long line of attacks on the Justice Department's work."

Last month, the House Oversight Committee moved forward with contempt resolutions against Garland because he refused to hand over audio recordings from special counsel Robert Hur's probe into President Biden's handling of classified documents. He said he couldn't turn them in because Biden claimed executive privilege.

Hur found Biden to simply be an "Elderly man with a poor memory," and provided interview transcripts edited to remove filler words. Republicans, however, want the raw audio between Biden and Hur.

"We don't know whether [the audio will] support or substantiate Mr. Hur's testimony...The audio would tell us so much more," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) told Garland, baffled that the Attorney General would refuse to turn it over. "There was editing and your own office admitted it!"

"It may reveal things about his capacity," offered Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), backing up Biggs' insinuations that Biden's life-long stutter wasn't the only thing scrubbed from the transcript.

Florida's Rep. Matt Gaetz took a different approach, asking whether the DOJ plans to provide any correspondence between their offices and that of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who successfully branded Trump with 34 felony counts. Garland responded that state-level investigations are separate from the DOJ and that conversation records requests must be processed through a series of bureaucratic channels.

Gaetz took that and ran, embarking on a cleverly plotted slew of hypotheticals to coax Garland into inadvertently tying the DOJ to the Trump trial—which he refused to comment on. Garland did, however, repeatedly affirm that the DOJ was never involved in the Manhattan trial, reverting to his opening remarks that "conspiracy theory is an attack on the judicial process itself."

Gaetz wasn't done.

"Just give us the documents, give us the correspondence, and if it's a conspiracy theory that will be evident," he said, asserting that by shoveling requests for documents into other channels, "You're actually advancing the very dangerous conspiracy theory that you're concerned about."

Garland, who excoriated the "extremely dangerous falsehoods" of the Trump-pushed theory that Biden authorized the FBI to use deadly force when they searched his Palm Beach home in 2022, was heavily supported by the House Democrats, who in turn accused Republicans of distracting from Trump's actions by lampooning Garland and the DOJ.

"No one is above the law," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said, slamming Republicans' "desperate" attacks in the wake of Trump's conviction.

"The entire contempt motion is stupid, because you already have the written transcript, and special counsel Robert Hur—a Republican nominated by Donald Trump—has said that the written transcript is an accurate rendition of the audio transcript," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) told The Floridian after the hearing. He claimed Republicans only want the audio to put Joe Biden's stutter out for the American people to hear, citing Rep. Biggs' asking if Biden had uttered "and...and...and" during the investigation.

"It is completely despicable that they want those audio tapes so they can get his stuttering. Every Republican in there should be ashamed of themselves," he added.

Meanwhile, Lieu's same-state peer, Eric Swalwell, was ruled out of order after shouting out a long list of countries Trump cannot travel to with his new felon status.

He also accused Trump supporters of "sycophancy" and claimed they are part of a "cult".

What Happens Next?

Congress' chief form of subpoena enforcement, Garland could be subject to prison time and fines up to $100,000 if convicted, though the last person to be found in contempt—former Trump advisor Peter Navarro in 2023—was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $9,500.

After Tuesday's hearing, the Judiciary and Oversight Committees will put a vote of contempt to the full House of Representatives. If a simple majority agrees, the charges will be sent to the Department of Justice to prosecute—headed up by Garland himself.

"I think we're living in different times now: these aren't ordinary types of political disagreements here in Washington and in our federal government, so I think that my conference needs to step it up," Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told The Floridian after the hearing, claiming Garland definitely had contact with DA Bragg over the Trump trial.

"I hope we vote to hold Merrick Garland in contempt," she added.

Because Garland heads up the DOJ, this means a contempt citation would likely be "symbolic only" as "Garland's DOJ is not going to prosecute," U.S. News reports.

Rep. Lieu agreed, telling The Floridian, "I do not believe he will be prosecuted if he is found in contempt of Congress."

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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