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Updated Mar 12, 2024, 1:42pm EDT
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Both parties are furious with Robert Hur — for very different reasons

Insights from Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, The Washington Post, and The New York Times

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Special Counsel Robert Hur testifies before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on his inquiry into President Biden's handling of classified documents on March 12, 2024.
REUTERS/Leah Millis
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The News

Former special counsel Robert K. Hur explained to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday why he opted to not prosecute President Joe Biden for the possession of classified documents after his vice presidency, saying his investigation concluded that there was not enough evidence to convict Biden of a crime. Hur’s report on the matter — which anticipated that a jury would view Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory” — infuriated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for essentially opposite reasons.

Democrats excoriated Hur for what they viewed as him overstepping by weighing in on the president’s mental acuity, while Hur repeatedly encouraged the public to read the report in full, saying his assessment of the president’s memory was “necessary and accurate and fair.”

“I knew that for my decision to be credible, I could not simply announce that I recommended no criminal charges and leave it at that. I needed to explain why,” Hur said.

Republicans argued that the former special counsel set a bad precedent by not prosecuting Biden for his retention of classified documents, with Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, saying “Joe Biden broke the law. But because he was a sympathetic old man who would appear sympathetic to a jury, Mr. Hur decided not to press charges.”

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Democrats accuse Hur of politicizing report to help Republicans

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Sources:  
Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Hank Johnson

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accused Hur, a registered Republican, of including analysis of the president’s memory to influence the upcoming presidential election, saying Hur unfairly politicized the report. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., went even further, accusing Hur of “doing everything you can do to get president Trump reelected” so that he would be appointed to a federal judgeship. Hur forcefully denied those allegations, saying “partisan politics had no place whatsoever in my work.”

Both parties hammer home comparisons of Biden and Trump’s conduct

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Matt Gaetz

Both Democrats and Republicans spent time comparing how Biden and former President Donald Trump handled classified documents. Biden’s allies argued that, unlike Trump, he cooperated with investigators. While Biden turned the documents over voluntarily and agreed to sit for an interview about them, federal prosecutors have accused Trump of obstructing justice by refusing to return classified documents and enlisting others to destroy evidence.

To make a point about what they saw as the unfairness of Hur’s depiction of Biden’s memory, Democrats showed a video compilation of Trump’s verbal slips and gaffes, interspersed with clips of the former president boasting about how good his memory is. Ranking member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., called Trump “a man who at the very least ought to think twice before accusing others of cognitive decline.”

Republicans argued that the fact Trump was charged and Biden wasn’t shows that the justice department has been “weaponized” against conservatives. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., alluded that Biden might be faking forgetfulness to avoid being charged for mishandling classified documents. “What I’m trying to figure out is whether or not Biden is lying because he’s still so senile...or whether it’s a little craftier, a little more devious, and perhaps, a little more intentional than we otherwise might think,” he said.

Full transcript of Biden’s interview shows more nuance than previously known

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, The New York Times

Before Tuesday, the public had only seen a summary of Hur’s report — not the entire transcript of the special counsel’s lengthy interview with Biden. The full text, released Tuesday ahead of the hearing, paints a more nuanced picture of the conversation than the executive summary did, The Washington Post’s Matt Viser reported. “The president doesn’t seem as absent-minded as Hur has made him out to be — and Hur doesn’t appear as crass as Biden has portrayed him,” Viser wrote.

For example, Hur asserted in his report that Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” The transcript is more complicated: Twice, The New York Times explained, “Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.”

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