WASHINGTON (NEWSnet/AP) — The House Judiciary Committee voted to move forward with an effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress hours after the White House blocked access to an audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with a special counsel who oversaw an investigation into his handling of classified documents.

“The department has a legal obligation to turn over the requested materials pursuant to the subpoena,” Rep. Jim Jordan, the GOP chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said during the hearing. “Attorney General Garland’s willful refusal to comply with our subpoena constitutes contempt of Congress.”

The House panel voted Thursday afternoon to advance the contempt maneuver. A similar vote is scheduled for later Thursday with the House oversight committee.

If House Republicans’ efforts are ultimately successful, Garland will become the third attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress.

The White House slammed the move in a letter earlier Thursday, labeling efforts to obtain the audio as purely political.

White House Counsel Ed Siskel wrote in a separate, scathing letter to Congress on Thursday that lawmakers’ effort to obtain the recording was absent any legitimate purpose and lays bare their likely goal — “to chop them up, distort them, and use them for partisan political purposes.”

Garland advised Biden in a letter on Thursday that the audio falls within the scope of executive privilege. 

The attorney general told reporters that the Justice Department has gone to extraordinary lengths to provide information to the committees about special counsel Robert Hur’s investigation, including a transcript of Biden’s interview with Hur. But, Garland said, releasing the audio could jeopardize future sensitive and high-profile investigations.

The files pertain to a troop surge in Afghanistan during the Obama administration that Biden had vigorously opposed.

Biden kept records that documented his position, including a classified letter to Obama during the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday. Some of that information was shared with a ghostwriter with whom he published memoirs in 2007 and 2017.

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