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8 Big Answers from Robert Hur’s Capitol Hill Testimony on Biden Document Scandal

Robert Hur. MGN
Robert Hur. MGN

By: Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal

Special counsel Robert Hur took fire Tuesday from both Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee while testifying about his report on President Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents from his eight years as vice president and 36 years in the Senate.

Hur released his final report last month, concluding that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after his vice presidency ended in early 2009. However, the special counsel opted not to bring charges, writing that a jury would be unlikely to convict because of Biden’s “diminished faculties in advancing age,” including a failing memory.

During Hur’s six hours of testimony, committee Democrats expressed anger that the special counsel’s report brings up Biden’s memory issues.

Republicans, for their part, were annoyed that Hur’s report didn’t recommend criminally charging Biden for mishandling classified information—particularly when former President Donald Trump was charged earlier for holding on to classified documents from his four years in office.

Here’s eight big takeaways from the hearing.

1. President ‘Put Memory Squarely at Issue’

Hur said he didn’t “sanitize” his report on Biden nor did he “disparage” the president, as he fended off repeated assertions from committee Democrats that he was partisan, a registered Republican, and Trump’s appointee as U.S. attorney for Maryland.

“The evidence—and the president himself—put his memory squarely at issue. We interviewed the president and asked him about his recorded statement [to his ghostwriter], ‘I just found all the classified stuff downstairs,’” Hur testified. “He told us he didn’t remember that. He also said he didn’t remember finding classified material in his home after his vice presidency. And he didn’t remember how any classified materials about Afghanistan made their way into his garage.”

Democrats criticized Hur’s references to Biden’s memory. During his opening statement, however, the special counsel explained why that was necessary.

“My assessment in the report about the president’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair,” Hur testified. “Most importantly, what I wrote is what I believe the evidence shows and what I expect jurors would perceive and believe. I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the president unfairly.”

2. ‘8 Million Reasons’

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talked about Biden’s five decades in federal elective office and how he should know the rules and law on classified information.

“Why did Joe Biden, in your words, ‘willfully retain and disclose classified materials?’” Jordan asked the special counsel.

Hur replied: “The conclusion as to exactly why the president did what he did is not one we explicitly addressed in the report.”

Jordan disagreed, saying, “I think you told us, Mr. Hur,” then read from Hur’s report.

“President Biden had strong motivations to ignore the proper procedures for safeguarding the classified information in his new book,” Jordan read out loud.

“Why did he have strong motivations? Because he decided months before leaving office to write a book,” the Ohio Republican said. “Joe Biden had 8 million reasons to break the rules. Took classified information and shared it with the guy who was writing the book. He knew the rules but he broke them for $8 million in a book advance.”

Jordan noted the ghostwriter of Biden’s 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad” destroyed a recording in which Biden said he was sharing classified information with him.

However, later in the hearing, Hur said his team didn’t want to charge Biden’s ghostwriter since he did maintain a transcript of that interview with Biden.

3. Report ‘Did Not Exonerate’ Biden

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked Hur about Biden: “In this case, did you reach a conclusion that this man was outright innocent?”

“That conclusion is not reflected in my report,” Hur replied.

In a follow-up question, Issa asked: “You did not reach an idea that he committed no wrong. You reached a conclusion that you would not prevail at a trial, and therefore did not take it forward. Is that correct?”

Hur responded: “Correct, Congressman.”

Hur made a similar point later when Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said that “this lengthy, expensive, and independent investigation resulted in a complete exoneration of Joe Biden.”

Jayapal went on to talk about other issues.

Hur said, “I would take note of a word that you used, ‘exoneration.’ That’s not part of my task as a prosecutor.”

During crosstalk, Jayapal said, “You exonerated him.”

Hur replied: “I did not exonerate him.”

Several other Democrats insisted that Hur’s report exonerated the president.

During another exchange, Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif., asked, “So a reasonable juror could have voted to convict based on the facts that you presented?”

Hur responded, “Correct.”

4. Gaetz: Biden’s ‘Elevator Doesn’t Go to Top Floor’

Several Republicans on the committee asked whether, had Biden been younger, the special counsel would have reached a different conclusion about criminal charges. Hur declined to speculate.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., more bluntly, said Biden got off on a senility defense.

“You find in your report that the elements of a federal criminal violation are met, but then you apply this ‘senile cooperator’ theory that because Joe Biden cooperated and the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor, you don’t think you can get a conviction,” Gaetz told Hur. “I actually think you got to the right answer. I don’t think Biden should have been charged. I don’t think Trump should have been charged.”

Hur disagreed on one point.

“One of the elements of the mishandling statute is the intent element,” the special counsel said. “What my report reflects is that, based on the evidence, I would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that intent element.”

5. White House Pressure to Change Report

Under questioning, Hur said the White House sought to change and edit his final report on the president before it went public.

“Did the White House get the report before the report was made public?” Jordan asked.

Hur cautiously responded.

“We did provide a draft of the report to the White House counsel’s office and members of the president’s personal counsel team for their review,” Hur said.

Jordan followed by asking: “Once they got the report, before it went public, did the White House try to weigh in with your investigation on elements of that report and, frankly, get that report changed?”

Hur responded: “They did request certain edits and changes to the draft report.”

Committee Democrats repeatedly suggested that Trump’s second attorney general, William Barr, aggressively sought changes in a special counsel’s report on Trump.

Trump repeatedly said that report “exonerated” him.

6. ‘Any Reason to Believe That President Biden Lied to You?’

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, noted that Trump has been charged with trying to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into classified documents stored at his Florida estate.

“At any point in your investigation, do you have any reason to believe that President Biden lied to you?” Nadler asked, then seemed to be surprised by the answer he got from Hur.

The special counsel named by Attorney General Merrick Garland, a Biden appointee, referred to the Feb. 8 report from his office.

“I do address in my report one response the president gave to a question we posed to him that we deemed to be not credible,” Hur said.

Nadler moved on to talking more about Trump.

But other committee members talked significantly about Biden’s sharing information with his ghostwriter for the 2017 book “Promise Me, Dad,” which the special counsel’s report said Biden was getting up to $8 million to produce for the publisher.

Later in the hearing, Gaetz, the Florida Republican, asked more about the matter, reading aloud from the transcript in which a federal prosecutor questions Biden.

“Mr. President, why did you share classified information with your ghostwriter?” the lawyer on the special counsel’s team asks.

The president answers: “I did not share classified information. … I guarantee I did not.”

“That’s not true, is it, Mr. Hur?” Gaetz asked.

“That is inconsistent with the evidence of the findings in my report,” Hur responded.

Gaetz followed by asking: “It’s a lie is what regular people would say, right?”

Hur smiled, but didn’t answer directly.

Gaetz read again from the transcript, quoting Biden as saying: “All the stuff that was in my home was in filing cabinets that were locked or able to be locked.”

“That wasn’t true either, was it?” Gaetz said.

Hur replied: “That was inconsistent with the findings of our investigation.”

“Another lie, people might say,” Gaetz said.

7. Schiff vs. Hur

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who was removed from the House Intelligence Committee for making unfounded statements about Russia, attacked Hur for including information in his report about Biden’s memory.

Schiff accused Hur of being partisan and said he would be “naive” to think Republicans wouldn’t use the report against Biden in the 2024 presidential campaign.

“What you did write was deeply prejudicial to the interests of the president,” Schiff said. “You must have understood the impact of your words.”

Hur said his job was to provide a report for Garland, Biden’s attorney general.

“What you are suggesting is that I provide a different version of my report that would be fit for public release,” Hur told Schiff. “I was to prepare a confidential report that was comprehensive and thorough.”

Schiff responded angrily.

“You don’t gratuitously add language that you know will be useful in a campaign,” Schiff said. “You were not born yesterday. You knew exactly what you were doing.”

Hur said he wasn’t going to make political considerations.

“What you are suggesting is that I shape, sanitize, omit portions of my reasoning and explanation to the attorney general for political reasons,” Hur said.

8. Raskin vs. Spartz

During the hearing, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said this matter and House investigations of Biden are only about getting Trump reelected, which Raskin suggested would end democracy.

“This is a memory test, but it’s not a memory test for President Biden. It’s a memory test for all of America,” Raskin, who was instrumental in both House impeachments of Trump, said.

“Do we remember fascism? Do we remember Nazism? Do we remember communism and totalitarianism?” the California Democrat asked rhetorically. “Have we completely forgotten the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents in prior generations? While we play pin the tail on the donkey in this wild goose chase and all these silly games, Donald Trump entertains authoritarian hustler Viktor Orban.”

Orban is the prime minister of Hungary, and many on the Left in the United States dislike him.

Later in the hearing, Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., who grew up in Ukraine when it was under Soviet control, took exception to Raskin’s trivializing comments on communism.

“Mr. Raskin mentioned about us not remembering communism—I actually grew up under communism, and I have a very good recollection of what it is,” Spartz said.

“Unfortunately, it appears on the march and on the rise, as you said,” she noted. “Unfortunately, they’ve been involved with President [Barack] Obama and now President Biden too. Unfortunately, our government’s Department of Justice really now resembles a tyrannical government. It is sad for me to see that.”

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