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This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

How Robert Hur’s Portrayal of Biden’s Memory Compares With the Transcript - The New York Times

How the Special Counsel’s Portrayal of Biden’s Memory Compares With the Transcript

"The special counsel, Robert K. Hur, accused the president last month of “significant” memory problems. The interview transcript offers context to his report.

A side view of President Biden wearing a blue suit and a white shirt while standing at a lectern.
The special counsel’s report touched off a political furor amid President Biden’s re-election campaign.Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

By Charlie Savage

Charlie Savage writes about national security and legal policy.

A transcript of a special counsel’s hourslong interview of President Biden over his handling of classified files shows that on several occasions the president fumbled with dates and the sequence of events, while otherwise appearing clearheaded.

A lightly redacted copy of the transcript, which is more than 250 pages and was reviewed by The New York Times, was sent to Congress hours before the special counsel, Robert K. Hur, was set to testify on Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats on the panel later released the document.

In a report released last month, Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime after classified documents ended up in an office he used after his vice presidency and in his home in Delaware. But the report also portrayed Mr. Biden, 81, as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” touching off a political furor amid his re-election campaign.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers, who were present for five hours of questioning over two days, have challenged the damaging portrait by Mr. Hur, a former Trump administration official. But the transcript had not been publicly available to evaluate Mr. Hur’s assessment that Mr. Biden’s memory has “significant limitations.”

Here are some highlights:

Mr. Biden repeatedly said he did not recall or know certain details.

In trying to determine whether Mr. Biden had willfully retained certain classified documents, Mr. Hur repeatedly pressed him for details, like where and how his staff stored classified documents, who packed up when his vice presidency ended and where particular files had gone.

Mr. Biden, who has denied wrongdoing, repeatedly demurred, saying he did not recall or had no idea how his staff handled such matters, and observing that there was “a continuum of a lot of these people” who assisted with those tasks.

He also said he did not recall seeing the most sensitive files investigators found — concerning the Afghanistan war that were in a tattered cardboard box in his garage in Delaware, along with a jumble of unrelated materials — and did not know how they got there.

“I don’t remember how a beat-up box got in the garage,” he said, speculating that someone packing up must have just tossed stuff into it. He added that he had “no goddamn idea” what was in a tranche of files shipped to his house and “didn’t even bother to go through them.”

Mr. Biden particularly fumbled with dates when talking about his son’s death.

Mr. Hur’s most striking assertion about Mr. Biden’s memory was that he “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.” The death of his son from cancer, in May 2015, was one of the most emotional moments in Mr. Biden’s personal life — and the subject of a memoir he wrote with a ghostwriter in 2017.

Mr. Biden expressed particular outrage about that line. “How in the hell dare he raise that?” the president said during a news conference held hours after Mr. Hur’s report became public. “Frankly, when I was asked the question I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business.”

The transcript shows that Mr. Hur did not specifically ask when Beau Biden had died. Instead, Mr. Hur pressed Mr. Biden about where he kept papers related to work he did after leaving the vice presidency in January 2017, like teaching at a think tank in Washington, a cancer “moonshot” project and the book he wrote about Beau’s death.

At that point, Mr. Biden, who sometimes stutters, began to stammer and garble matters. He said “when I got out of the Senate” when he meant to refer to leaving the vice presidency, and he seemingly conflated events in 2015, when Beau died and Mr. Biden chose not to run against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, with events in 2017, when he wrote the memoir and decided to run for president in the 2020 cycle:

BIDEN: Well, um … I, I, I, I, I don’t know. This is, what, 2017, 2018, that area?

HUR: Yes, sir.

BIDEN: Remember, in this time frame, my son is — either been deployed or is dying, and, and so it was — and by the way, there were still a lot of people at the time when I got out of the Senate that were encouraging me to run in this period, except the president. I’m not — and not a mean thing to say. He just thought that she had a better shot of winning the presidency than I did. And so I hadn’t, I hadn’t, at this point — even though I’m at Penn, I hadn’t walked away from the idea that I may run for office again. But if I ran again, I’d be running for president. And, and so what was happening, though — what month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30 —



BIDEN: Was it 2015 he had died?


BIDEN: It was 2015.

ROBERT BAUER, BIDEN’S PERSONAL LAWYER: Or — I’m not sure of the month, sir, but I think that was the year.

MARC KRICKBAUM, HUR’S DEPUTY: That’s right, Mr. President. It —

BIDEN: And what’s happened in the meantime is that as — and Trump gets elected in November of 2017?



BIDEN: ’16, 2016. All right. So — why do I have 2017 here?

ED SISKEL, BIDEN’S WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That’s when you left office, January of 2017.

BIDEN: Yeah, OK. But that’s when Trump gets sworn in, January.

SISKEL: Right.

BAUER: Right, correct.

BIDEN: OK, yeah. And in 2017, Beau had passed and — this is personal …

Mr. Biden then recounted Beau’s death; how he came to write the subsequent book “Promise Me, Dad,” based on his son’s dying request that he stay involved in public service; and how he decided in 2017, after a rally by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va., to run for president against Donald J. Trump.

Mr. Biden had several other miscues.

The transcript also contained some minor seeming slips that went unmentioned in Mr. Hur’s report. For example, Mr. Biden needed to be nudged to recall the name of the federal agency that takes custody of official records — the National Archives — or that fax machine is the name of the device that transmits images of documents over phone lines.

But Mr. Hur made a particularly striking assertion in stating that Mr. Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” As evidence, Mr. Hur quoted him as saying, “If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?” According to the report, Mr. Biden displayed similar confusion on the second day of questioning, asking, “In 2009, am I still vice president?”

The transcript provides context for those lines. In both instances, Mr. Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.

The first unfolded as Mr. Biden stressed that he did not know how material about an internal Obama administration debate in 2009 about the Afghanistan war had ended up in his Delaware garage:

BIDEN: Somebody must’ve, packing this up, just picked up all the stuff and put it in a box, because I didn’t.

HUR: OK. Do you have any idea where this material would’ve been before it got moved into the garage?

BIDEN: Well, if it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?

COTTON: 2017.

BIDEN: So I was vice president. So it must’ve come from vice-president stuff. That’s all I can think of.

The second happened when Mr. Biden was asked about how a particular folder of those same documents ended up in his garage. Again discussing the end of his vice presidency in 2017, he mistakenly instead invoked the year the documents were from:

BIDEN: My problem was I never knew where any of the documents or boxes were specifically coming from or who packed them. Just did I get them delivered to me. And so this is — I’m, at this stage, in 2009, am I still vice president?

[indiscernible whispering]

BIDEN: Yeah, OK.

Mr. Krickbaum then said he saw that Mr. Biden was “flipping ahead” and the conversation moved on.

Mr. Hur was selective in portraying Mr. Biden’s memory of an ambassador’s position.

In portraying the president’s memory as unusually faulty, Mr. Hur singled out one other issue: whether Mr. Biden accurately remembered the stance of a diplomat in Afghanistan. According to the report, Mr. Biden, in discussing a memo he wrote to President Barack Obama in 2009 arguing against a surge of additional troops to Afghanistan, had mistakenly said he “had a real difference” of opinion with Karl Eikenberry, who was the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. In fact, Mr. Hur noted, Mr. Eikenberry, like Mr. Biden, had opposed a surge.

That line came when Mr. Biden interrupted himself during a lengthy recollection of the internal administration debate over whether Mr. Obama should order a surge:

BIDEN: I’ll just tell you one thing, it has nothing to do with the investigation, you’ll understand why this is sensitive. The president thought that I knew a lot more about Afghanistan than he did and other members of the administration. He knew I had a real difference with the key foreign policy types, particularly — whether it was Eikenberry or whether it was — anyway. And he was looking for me to make my case as strong as I could, without him having to ask for it or being associated with it, because his concern in this period was he didn’t have overwhelming foreign policy experience, and how could he take on the most premier members of the foreign policy establishment in his administration. Quite a few that said, go, do this. So he was looking for me to make the strongest case I could. So I’d be the guy that’d basically take the heat, which I was prepared to do because I knew as much about it as they did.

Notably, later that same day, Mr. Biden invoked Mr. Eikenberry again. In that passage, Mr. Biden made clear that he recalled that Mr. Eikenberry shared his opposition to sending additional troops to Afghanistan. Mr. Biden was discussing a typed file he may or may not have seen before writing his 2009 memo to Mr. Obama.

BIDEN: I received this before I wrote the other, it was added argument why he should listen to my argument. I’m talking about — you know, “I had a long conversation with Eikenberry, yes, I urge you to call him before you make a decision. Karl can speak for himself and he has eloquently in some of his cables, let me relay just a few things. Adding troops will not speed up the ability to train Afghans because…” etc. So these are criticisms of the proposal that was being made to the president by, by others in the administration wanting him to double down in Afghanistan.

In his report, Mr. Hur did not mention this second discussion of Mr. Eikenberry’s position.

Mr. Biden appeared clearheaded most of the time.

Mr. Biden went into great detail about many matters, the transcript shows. He made jokes over the two days, teasing the prosecutors. And at certain points, he corrected his interrogators when they were the ones who misspoke.

When Mr. Hur showed him a photograph and suggested that two documents resembled each other, Mr. Biden objected to the comparison. When Mr. Krickbaum misquoted Mr. Biden as having told his ghostwriter that he had found material “marked” classified, Mr. Biden interrupted to question his inaccurate addition of that word.

Mr. Biden also critically evaluated Mr. Hur’s strategy. At the end of the first day of questioning, he told his lawyers, “They’re obviously trying to establish something.”

On the second day, when Mr. Krickbaum insinuated that Mr. Biden had improperly held onto personal diaries from his vice presidency in which he had recorded accounts of sensitive meetings, Mr. Biden forcefully stressed, “Every president before me has done the same exact thing.” He added, “I just want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

When Mr. Hur suggested that classified files found in Mr. Biden’s garage may have once been stored in a desk in his house that contained similar-looking folders, Mr. Biden questioned that premise. He argued that it was more likely that both sets were originally shipped to the garage, and someone — not him — had just found the one set and so put it in his desk.

And when Mr. Biden provided a lengthy description of the layout of his house in Delaware — portions of which were redacted in the transcript for security reasons — Mr. Hur observed that Mr. Biden appeared to have “a photographic understanding and, and recall of the house.”

How Robert Hur’s Portrayal of Biden’s Memory Compares With the Transcript - The New York Times

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