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16 May, 2024 18:27

Biden asserts ‘executive privilege’ over prosecutor’s tapes

The US president has prevented lawmakers from hearing the interview that led to him being called “elderly man with a poor memory”
Biden asserts ‘executive privilege’ over prosecutor’s tapes

US President Joe Biden has declared executive privilege over a recording of his interview with the special counsel who probed his mishandling of classified documents, blocking Republican lawmakers from hearing the exchange that led to him being called a “well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

White House lawyer Ed Siskel notified US House investigators of Biden’s decision on Thursday, hours before Republicans were expected to recommend that Attorney General Merrick Garland be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over the recording. Lawmakers had subpoenaed audio tapes from special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation of Biden, seeking to hear for themselves why the prosecutor concluded that a jury would find the president too forgetful to have intentionally mishandled state secrets.

Hur released a 345-page report on his investigation in February, saying he had decided against recommending criminal charges against Biden despite finding evidence that the career politician had “willfully retained and disclosed” classified information. One of the reasons he cited for the decision was that it would be difficult to prove Biden’s intent, given his mental state.

US House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Kentucky) insisted that the assertion of executive privilege won’t derail congressional investigations of Biden’s alleged misconduct. “It’s a five-alarm fire at the White House,” Comer said. “Clearly, President Biden and his advisers fear releasing the audio recordings of his interview because it will again reaffirm to the American people that President Biden’s mental state is in decline.”

Lawmakers have been given transcripts from Hur’s investigation, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said the audio recordings would provide a “unique perspective.” He suggested that his committee will press forward with holding Garland in contempt of Congress, despite Biden’s invocation of executive privilege.

Under US law, executive privilege gives the president authority to withhold documents or information concerning certain confidential communications or matters pertaining to national security. Garland recommended the use of executive privilege over the Hur tapes, telling Biden that his interview fell “within the scope” of the law. He added that giving the recording to Congress would undermine the Department of Justice’s ability to conduct “similar high-profile investigations – in particular, investigations where the voluntary cooperation of White house officials is exceedingly important.”

Biden and other Democrat politicians blasted Hur’s characterization of the president as forgetful, arguing that it was meant to undermine his reelection bid. The special counsel said White House lawyers pressured him to “revise” his description of Biden before releasing his report. During the interview with Hur, Biden couldn’t remember such facts as when he served as vice president and roughly when his son Beau died. He also mistook the year Donald Trump was elected president, and he couldn’t recall the term for “fax machine.”

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