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What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White

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Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Five key takeaways from the House hearing on Robert Hur’s Biden report | Joe Biden | The Guardian


Five key takeaways from the House hearing on Robert Hur’s Biden report

"Neither Republicans nor Democrats were pleased with the special counsel’s report, resulting in a contentious hearing

Special counsel Hur testifies before a House judiciary committee on his inquiry into the president’s  handling of classified documents.
Special counsel Robert Hur testifies before a House judiciary committee on his inquiry into the president’s handling of classified documents. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

The former special counsel Robert Hur, who investigated Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, testified before a House committee on Tuesday in an often contentious hearing that found the witness on the receiving end of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

Here were the key takeaways from the House judiciary committee hearing:

Hur defended his assessment of Biden’s memory

In his report, which was released last month, Hur concluded that no criminal charges were warranted against Biden. While stating that Biden had “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice-presidency when he was a private citizen”, Hur assessed that a jury would probably view him as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and thus would be unable to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the report’s release, Democrats celebrated Hur’s recommendation against criminal charges, but they accused the special counsel of overstepping the bounds of his assignment by offering such a stinging opinion on Biden’s memory. Hur directly confronted that criticism in his opening statement on Tuesday.

“My task was to determine whether the president retained or disclosed national defense information ‘willfully’. That means knowingly and with the intent to do something the law forbids. I could not make that determination without assessing the president’s state of mind,” Hur said. “My assessment in the report about the relevance of the president’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair.”

When Republican members of the committee attempted to press Hur on whether he found Biden to be “senile”, he said, “I did not. That conclusion does not appear in my report.”

Robert Hur says Biden memory comments were 'necessary, accurate and fair' – video

Hur asserted his impartiality even as he refused to rule out a potential role in a Trump administration

Democrats on the committee accused Hur of directly inserting himself into the 2024 election by knowingly writing a report meant to paint a damning portrait of Biden, even as the special counsel simultaneously concluded that the president should not be charged.

“You cannot tell me you’re so naive as to think your words would not have created a political firestorm,” said the Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California. “You were not born yesterday. You understood exactly what you were doing.”

Hur rejected that characterization, telling Schiff: “Politics played no part whatsoever in my investigative steps.”

And yet, when Hur was directly asked whether he would rule out taking a position in the Trump administration if the former president wins the election in November, the special counsel would not do so.

“I’m not here to speak about what may or may not happen in the future,” Hur said.

Robert Hur won't rule out future Trump admin role and denies exonerating Biden – video

Republicans complained of a double standard of justice, citing Trump’s indictment in Florida, but Democrats noted key differences in the two cases

Republicans argued that Hur had made a special exception for Biden to avoid charging a sitting president, and they disparagingly compared the case to Trump’s indictment for mishandling classified information after leaving the White House.

Matt Gaetz, a hard-right Republican congressman of Florida, mocked the special counsel’s reasoning for not recommending charges against Biden as the “senile cooperator theory”.

“Biden and Trump should have been treated equally. They weren’t. And that is the double standard that I think a lot of Americans are concerned about,” Gaetz said.

Democrats fiercely pushed back against that argument, noting that Trump was accused of repeatedly refusing to turn over classified documents after federal authorities requested their return.

“What kind of man bungles not one, but dozens of opportunities to avoid criminal liability? What must that say about his mental state?” asked Congressman Jerry Nadler, the top Democratic member on the judiciary committee.

Nadler added, “House Republicans may be desperate to convince America that white conservative men are on the losing end of a two-tiered justice system – a theory that appeals to the Maga crowd but has no basis in reality.”

Hur said Biden was not “exonerated” even though no charges were filed against the president

In her questioning of Hur, the Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, zeroed in on the special counsel’s conclusion that no charges should be brought against Biden.

“You exonerated him,” Jayapal said.

Hur interjected to say, “I did not exonerate him. That word does not appear in the report.”

Although the word “exonerate” does not appear in Hur’s report, the first paragraph of the document reads, “We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter. We would reach the same conclusion even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president.”

Transcripts painted a more nuanced picture of Biden’s conversations with Hur

Democrats on the House judiciary committee released the transcripts of Biden’s interviews with Hur, and they somewhat clash with how the two have portrayed their conversations.

For example, in his report, Hur wrote that Biden “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died”.

The comment infuriated Biden, who said at a fiery press conference held after the report’s release, “How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business.”

But the report reveals that Hur did not in fact inquire about the date of Beau Biden’s death. Hur was actually asking about where Biden kept certain documents after leaving the White House in January 2017, and the president invoked his son’s death as a reference point in the conversation.

“And so what was happening, though – what month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30,” Biden said.

Biden did not specify which year his son died, prompting an aide to remind him that it was 2015. “Was it 2015 he had died?” Biden asked, and the aide confirmed it was.

Other exchanges outlined in the transcripts raise questions about Hur’s assessment of Biden’s “poor memory”. Although the president frequently fumbled as he recounted the exact sequence of events related to the transfer of documents, Biden also offered detailed explanations and reminiscences of events in the past.

At one point, Biden was so exact in the description of his Wilmington home that Hur joked, “We have some photographs to show you, but you have – appear to have a photographic understanding and recall of the house.”

The Guardian’s Léonie Chao-Fong contributed to this report"

Five key takeaways from the House hearing on Robert Hur’s Biden report | Joe Biden | The Guardian

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