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Justice Department won’t give Republicans audio tapes of Biden’s interview with special counsel

<i>Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>President Joe Biden and former Special Counsel Robert Hur.
Getty Images via CNN Newsource
President Joe Biden and former Special Counsel Robert Hur.

By Annie Grayer, CNN

(CNN) — The Department of Justice says it won’t provide Congress with the audio tapes from Special Counsel Robert Hur’s interviews with President Joe Biden despite threats from House Republicans to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in criminal contempt.

In a new letter obtained by CNN, DOJ said it would not be turning over the audio tapes by the deadline Republicans set for them. The department noted the committees already have all of the transcripts of the interviews they requested from Hur’s investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents, including the transcripts of interviews with the president and with his ghostwriter, which the department turned over Monday.

It’s not yet clear if House Republicans will carry out their threat to hold Garland, a top GOP target, in contempt of Congress for failing to fully comply with a congressional subpoena. CNN has reached out to the committees of jurisdiction for comment.

House Oversight Chair James Comer criticized the Department of Justice for not turning over the audio tapes, but did not say whether House Republicans would move forward with holding Garland in contempt.

“The Biden Administration does not get to determine what Congress needs and does not need for its oversight of the executive branch,” Comer said in a statement, responding to the DOJ argument that House Republicans don’t need the audio tapes when they have the transcripts of the interviews.

Comer said his committee will continue to work with the House Judiciary Committee on this matter: “We will respond to the Justice Department soon.”

“We urge the Committees to avoid conflict rather than seek it,” Assistant Attorney General Carlos Felipe Uriarte wrote in a letter to the committees, arguing that the department has complied with the requests.

“Our productions on each of the four subpoena items have met or exceeded the committee’s stated informational needs,” he wrote.

Uriarte said Republicans did not have a legislative justification for subpoenaing the audio tapes given they have the transcripts and accused Republicans of escalating the issue as “conflict for conflict’s sake.”

“The Department is concerned that the committees’ particular focus on continuing to demand information that is cumulative of information we already gave you — what the President and Mr. Hur’s team said in the interview — indicates that the committees’ interests may not be in receiving information in service of legitimate oversight or investigatory functions, but to serve political purposes that should have no role in the treatment of law enforcement files,” Uriarte wrote.

Uriarte also argued that producing the audio tapes could harm future investigations. “To go further by producing the audio files would compound the likelihood that future prosecutors will be unable to secure this level of cooperation,” he wrote.

“They might have a harder time obtaining consent to an interview at all,” Uriarte continued. “It is clearly not in the public interest to render such cooperation with prosecutors and investigators less likely in the future.”

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