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White House accuses Jordan of effort to 'harass and intimidate' Biden ghostwriter

The White House on Tuesday accused House Judiciary Committee Republicans of working “to harass and intimidate a private citizen” after they scheduled a meeting to consider a contempt referral for President Biden’s ghostwriter.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to meet Thursday to mark up a resolution to hold Mark Zwonitzer in contempt of Congress after he failed to turn over audio tapes and notes from his interviews with Biden.

In a letter to Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Edward Siskel, counsel to the president, argues that Zwonitzer is not in a position to comply with the request as “there are significant Executive Branch interests at stake.”

“The Committee’s actions are an obvious example of the very weaponization of government for political purposes that you claim to decry. Putting a private citizen in your political crosshairs and threatening him with criminal prosecution, simply because you refuse to engage with the Executive Branch, is out of bounds,” Siskel wrote in a letter obtained by The Hill.

“If you were sincerely interested in examining the handling of classified information, you would engage with the Executive Branch, not a private citizen with no authority related to classified information.”

The committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans asked for Zwonitzer’s materials after special counsel Robert Hur noted in his report documenting his investigation into Biden’s handling of classified records that the president appeared to have read passages from his own notebooks that referenced classified information.

“Based on the information in Special Counsel Hur’s report, President Biden’s assertion that he never shared classified information with you appears to be false,” Jordan wrote in February when initially requesting the information.

Zwonitzer through his attorneys has noted that he turned the materials over to the Justice Department. While he initially deleted recordings of his conversation with Biden, the department was able to recover them.

“The Department continues to have possession, custody, and control of those files,” Zwonitzer’s attorneys wrote in a May letter suggesting the panel deal directly with DOJ.

Zwonitzer’s attorney noted the personal nature of most of the interviews and materials needed to prep Biden’s memoir, adding they would not serve any legitimate legislative purpose.

Siskel also noted the personal nature of the discussions, pointing to a court decision regarding the effort to secure former President Trump’s taxes.

“The Supreme Court recently made clear that congressional attempts to seek the personal information of the sitting President raise ‘significant separation of powers issues,’” he wrote.

“Congressional demands for the private information of the President ‘implicate the relationship between the branches’ and ‘may aim to harass the President.’”

Jordan’s interest in Zwonitzer comes after House Republicans voted to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt for failing to turn over audio tapes of Biden’s conversation with Hur. 

Biden claimed executive privilege over the tapes, a detail the Justice Department determined shields Garland from prosecution.

Hur declined to prosecute Zwonizter in connection with his investigation, writing that “the evidence falls short of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zwonitzer intended to impede an investigation.” 

Siskel noted that Republicans “have gone so far as to demand that Mr. Zwonitzer be criminally prosecuted, despite the Special Counsel … declining such action after an investigation that lasted more than a year.”

Source: The Hill

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