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Biden rejects Republican request for audio of special counsel interview

Papua New Guinea PM dismisses Biden's 'loose' talk on cannibalism as a 'blurry moment'
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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 October deposition 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 in the Judiciary Committee claimed the government’s rejection of their demand was 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 2023 to investigate Biden, and the special counsel concluded that — while the president improperly retained classified papers after his vice-presidential term ended in 2017 — 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.

Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, and Democrats hope to seize control of the lower chamber of Congress in November’s elections.

“To determine whether special counsel has appropriately carried out justice by not prosecuting — not recommending for prosecution — the president, the recordings are necessary,” Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan said as the panel began considering the Garland contempt citation.

“The transcripts alone are not sufficient evidence of the state of the president’s memory, frankly, because the White House has a track record of altering the transcripts.”

Jordan’s Democratic counterpart Jerry Nadler accused him of wasting $20 million on “his various conspiracy theories,” targeting Biden to deflect from wrongdoing by Trump, who faces 88 felony charges — almost half of which are for allegedly hoarding classified documents.

“In reality, the special counsel cleared Mr Biden of wrongdoing,” Nadler said. “The chairman hoped he could intimidate prosecutors out of indicting Donald Trump for his crimes.”

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, where he faces 34 felony charges.

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AFP

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.







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