Florida U.S. Rep. Luna changes course in campaign against attorney general

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill on June 26, 2024. Luna recently introduced a resolution to fine Attorney General Merrick Garland for not turning over audio tapes of President Joe Biden’s interview with then-Justice Department special counsel Robert K. Hur. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Florida Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna plans to force a vote as early as next week to invoke the House’s rarely used power of “inherent contempt” to levy a daily fine against U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in an attempt to obtain audio tapes from a Justice Department special counsel’s interview of President Joe Biden.

The strategy represents a change from an earlier effort by Luna to pursue a vote to have the House sergeant-at-arms detain Garland.

Luna introduced a resolution on June 28 that would levy a $10,000 daily fine on Garland until he complies with a subpoena to release the tapes of Justice Department special counsel Robert K. Hur’s interview with Biden regarding his handling of classified documents.

The resolution would use the House’s inherent contempt power to levy the fine. That power — which has not been used in nearly a century — has generally been thought to allow Congress to detain and bring to trial someone accused of contempt, leaving questions about how a fine would work.

“While pursuing a fine-based approach eliminates some of the logistical concerns and challenges related to arrest and imprisonment, other questions about how a fine would actually be enforced remain,” Molly Reynolds, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, told States Newsroom.

Luna’s office did not respond to States Newsroom’s request for comment about the switch in resolutions.

Following the July 4 recess, the House is scheduled to be in session for just four days before breaking again for more than a week for the Republican National Convention.

House GOP’s push to get audio

The latest maneuver from Luna is part of a broad attempt by the GOP to obtain the tapes of the Biden-Hur interview.

The effort has only intensified after Biden’s poor performance during the first presidential debate.

Republicans have said Biden isn’t fit to remain in the Oval Office for another four years. After the June 27 debate, even some Democrats raised concerns, with Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas calling Tuesday for the president to withdraw from his reelection campaign.

House Republicans in early June voted to hold Garland in contempt of Congress after he agreed with the president asserting executive privilege over the tapes, but the Department of Justice declined to pursue any contempt charges against Garland.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee filed a civil lawsuit July 1 against Garland asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to overturn Biden’s assertion of executive privilege.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said last month that Republicans are “looking at all avenues” to obtain the audio tapes.

If the House passes the resolution, it’s unclear how the fine would be implemented or if any legal challenges from the Justice Department would ensue. The department declined to comment on Luna’s efforts.

Luna initially announced she would force a vote on her inherent contempt resolution June 28, but later wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that it would be brought up “this upcoming session” with Johnson’s “full support.”

“It is imperative that we do not let time lapse and that we obtain those tapes,” Luna said during an interview with Fox News that day.

Combative freshman

Luna has clashed throughout her first House term with the Biden administration, co-sponsoring resolutions to impeach officials such as U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Garland.

As a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, she’s grilled the president’s son Hunter Biden over his business ties and if those financial gains benefited the president — something House Republicans have not found any evidence of.

Luna, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, has also rebuffed establishment figures in her own party. She initially voted against former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during his bid for the gavel in January 2023.

With the support of former President Donald J. Trump, Luna’s 2022 campaign flipped Florida’s 13th Congressional District from Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who forewent his bid for reelection in an attempt to run against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Luna lost to Crist in 2020.

In June 2023, less than six months into her first term, the 35-year-old, who is the first Mexican American woman elected to Congress from Florida, went after Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California who was the lead House manager in the first impeachment trial against Trump.

Luna led the censure effort against Schiff for comments he made about Trump’s ties to Russia. The House agreed to the censure resolution.

Hur investigation

In January 2023, Garland tapped Hur, who was a federal prosecutor during the Trump administration, to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents.

The Department of Justice has provided a written transcript of Hur’s October 2023 interview with Biden to the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, but House Republicans have pushed for the audio since Hur finished his report earlier this year.

Hur declined to prosecute Biden. He concluded in a 388-report released in February that Biden “willfully retained” classified information during his time as vice president, but depicted Biden as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” with whom jurors would likely sympathize.

Biden, 81, has vehemently rejected the characterization of his memory, but Republicans have sought to gain access to the audio tapes for a more detailed record of the interview.

“Cumbersome”and “inefficient” process

Luna has argued the process of inherent contempt would likely be quicker than waiting on a lawsuit to obtain the tapes, which the House Judiciary Committee is also pursuing.

But House parliamentary experts wrote in a massive and detailed guide to the chamber this year that Congress has largely abandoned inherent contempt because it is a lengthy and burdensome process.

The 1,073-page document, written by two former House parliamentarians and the current parliamentarian, notes that the inherent contempt power “has not been invoked by the House in recent years because of the time-consuming nature of the trial and because the jurisdiction of the House cannot extend beyond the end of a Congress.”

The last time either chamber used inherent contempt was 1935, the guide said.

And the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said the procedure is typically a multi-step process that “has been described by some observers as cumbersome, inefficient.”


The post Florida U.S. Rep. Luna changes course in campaign against attorney general appeared first on Ohio Capital Journal.

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