House GOP ramps up efforts to enforce Garland subpoena after contempt vote


Washington — House Republicans are ramping up their efforts to enforce a subpoena against Attorney General Merrick Garland, with multiple avenues in play after the Justice Department said it would not bring charges against Garland following a House vote to hold him in contempt of Congress.

“We’re going to be as aggressive as we can and use every tool in our arsenal,” House Speaker Mike Johnson said of the effort to enforce the subpoena at a news conference on Wednesday. 

GOP lawmakers are seeking audio recordings of President Biden’s interview with special counsel Robert Hur concerning the president’s handling of classified documents, which came as part of an investigation that wrapped earlier this year. The House Judiciary and Oversight committees demanded that the Justice Department provide the tapes as part of their impeachment inquiry into the president. But the president asserted executive privilege over the recordings in May. 

That didn’t stop House Republicans from voting to hold Garland in contempt of Congress for the refusal to hand over the recordings in a vote earlier this month. The move marked a major escalation, but it was not without precedent. In 2012, former Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt, as was former attorney general Bill Barr in 2019. And neither faced criminal charges from their own Justice Departments.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson attends a press conference following a House Republican conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on June 12, 2024 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson attends a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on June 12, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images


But Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, made clear on Wednesday that Republicans remain steadfast in their intention to secure the audio recordings, arguing that they need to be able to check the audio to confirm what’s on the written transcript of Hur’s interview with Mr. Biden.

“Everybody is in agreement on the objective, and that is to have access to that audiotape,” Johnson said. “We need it.”

Johnson outlined that the House Judiciary Committee would file a lawsuit next week against the Justice Department to enforce the subpoena. But he noted that “in the meantime, there’s a lot of different ideas and discussions and people are brainstorming on how might we acquire access to those tapes,” saying House Republicans are “looking at all avenues.”

One of those avenues may be a push to hold Garland in “inherent contempt,” a tool rarely used in modern times that’s being pushed by Rep. Anna Paulina Luna and could result in Garland being taken into custody.

The Florida Republican has been teasing an inherent contempt resolution in recent days. And at a news conference on Wednesday, she said she plans to force a vote by calling up a privileged motion on Friday morning, unless Garland complies with the subpoena. 

“We are asking that he bring the tapes to the House and let us listen to them,” she said. 

In a letter to colleagues on Monday, Luna outlined the unusual process, which she said would involve Garland being “brought before the bar of the House by the Sergeant at Arms, tried by the body, and can then be detained either in the Capitol or in D.C.” She said the maneuver demonstrates the “seriousness” of non-compliance with Congress. 

“It is imperative that Congress uses its inherent contempt powers and instructs the Sergeant at Arms to bring Attorney General Merrick Garland to the House for questioning and compel him to produce the requested evidence,” Luna added. 

Luna’s motion would tee up a vote on the House floor within two legislative days. But with the House out on recess next week, that vote could be pushed into the second week of July. And although the resolution to hold Garland in contempt passed the House with all but one Republican voting to back it, support for Luna’s motion remains unclear. 

The speaker noted on Wednesday that he’s spoken with Luna and others about “various ideas,” saying that he doesn’t think anything has been “settled on” yet. 



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