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Biden rejects Republican request for audio of special counsel interview

By AFP

May 16, 2024 10:30 PM


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US President Joe Biden refused Thursday to turn over audio of an interview with investigators probing his handling of classified documents -- questioning that led to bombshell accusations that the 81-year-old Democrat was mentally frail.

Republicans in Congress have been demanding the tapes of the deposition last October with Special Counsel Robert Hur, who interviewed the president extensively for his investigation into Biden's retention of the records.

Hur concluded in February that charges were not warranted but made the politically explosive claim that Biden had "limited precision and recall" and would likely be seen by a jury as "a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory."

The Justice Department and White House counsel said in letters to two Republican House committee chairmen that Biden was asserting executive privilege over the recordings.

Republicans have focused on Hur's comments about Biden's memory, hoping to reignite the age issue for the incumbent ahead of an expected rematch against 77-year-old Republican Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

White House counsel Ed Siskel said Biden was claiming executive privilege over the recordings to protect the "integrity, effectiveness, and independence of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement investigations."

The move comes with an impeachment inquiry into Biden over allegations of corruption floundering following a series of hearings led by House Republicans that failed to demonstrate any wrongdoing by the Democratic leader.

Republicans on the House oversight and judiciary committees were set Thursday to advance resolutions holding Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress after the Justice Department refused to hand over the tapes.

Republicans are expected to claim the government's rejection of their demand is politically motivated to protect the president.

But the department has already released transcripts of the interviews and argues that Republicans want the tapes simply to use in campaign ads supporting Trump.

"The absence of a legitimate need for the audio recordings lays bare your likely goal -- to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes," Siskel said in his letter to the committees.

Garland appointed Hur in January last year to investigate Biden, and the special counsel concluded that -- while the president improperly retained classified papers after his vice-presidential term in 2016 -- no criminal charges were justified.

The Justice Department -- which is run by Garland -- will not act on the contempt charges, meaning the issue is set to end up in the civil courts, likely stalling the case beyond this Congress.

Both committees were due to prepare contempt citations against Garland Thursday for a vote of the full House of Representatives at a date yet to be arranged.

"The truth is, we want all the evidence because you hear changes in voice inflection and emphasis and all that conversation you don't get in a transcript," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan told Punchbowl News.

The oversight committee meeting has been pushed back to 8:00 pm (0000 GMT Friday) to accommodate a group of Republicans who traveled to New York Thursday for the latest session of Trump's hush money trial.

Dow tops 40,000 points for first time on Wall Street

The Dow index topped 40,000 points for the first time Thursday, propelled by strong Walmart earnings after a benign inflation report resulted in records in the prior session.

Near 1440 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 40,000.45, up 0.2 percent. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also modestly higher after all three indices finished at records on Wednesday.

 


AFP


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