Biden Asserts Executive Privilege in Fight Over Recording of Special Counsel Interview

President Biden has asserted executive privilege to deny House Republicans access to recordings of his interview with a special counsel investigating his handling of government documents, Justice Department officials and the White House counsel said on Thursday.

The move is intended to shield Attorney General Merrick B. Garland from prosecution if House Republicans succeed in their effort to hold him in contempt for refusing to turn over audio of Mr. Biden’s conversations with the special counsel, Robert K. Hur, weeks after a nearly complete transcript of the interview was made public.

The move is certain to draw the ire of former President Donald J. Trump and his allies, but it is in keeping with the practice of his administration and that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama. The Justice Department cited executive privilege in opting not to pursue charges against two of Mr. Garland’s predecessors when they were held in contempt: Eric H. Holder Jr., a Democrat, in 2012 and William P. Barr, a Republican, in 2020.

“It is the longstanding position of the executive branch held by administrations of both parties that an official who asserts the president’s claim of executive privilege cannot be prosecuted for criminal contempt of Congress,” Carlos F. Uriarte, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, wrote in a letter to Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, who leads the House Judiciary Committee, and Representative James R. Comer of Kentucky, who leads the Oversight Committee.

Mr. Uriarte urged the committees to withdraw their contempt resolutions, citing the decision by the House members to forgo contempt proceedings in 2008 when President George W. Bush asserted executive privilege after his vice president, Dick Cheney, was subpoenaed.

“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,” the White House counsel Edward N. Siskel wrote in a letter to Mr. Jordan and Mr. Comer on Thursday, referring to Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure department officials when he was president.

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