Special counsel defends report on Biden’s memory, says president not exonerated

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Biden’s age, memory under scrutiny amid special counsel report on classified docs
RELATED: Biden’s age, memory under scrutiny amid special counsel report on classified docs – Feb 9, 2024

A U.S. prosecutor said on Tuesday his investigation of President Joe Biden over his handling of classified documents didn’t exonerate the president despite declining to charge him, after setting off a political firestorm by saying Biden had a “poor memory.” Former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Hur faced a grilling from the Republican-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which has been one of the panels conducting an impeachment inquiry into the 81-year-old Democratic president.

Hur – who was appointed as the former top federal prosecutor in Maryland by Biden’s predecessor and election rival, Republican Donald Trump – said he “did not exonerate” the president. He noted that the investigation uncovered evidence that Biden knowingly kept secret documents after leaving the vice presidency in 2017.

Trump is facing four upcoming criminal trials, including on federal charges that he also retained classified documents after leaving the White House. However, unlike Biden, he is charged with obstruction for trying to stop the government from collecting them.

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Hur defended his discussion of Biden’s memory, saying the president’s state of mind was relevant to whether he committed a crime.

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Biden reacts after special counsel declines to bring charges in classified docs case

“My assessment in the report about the relevance of the president’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair,” Hur said. “I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the president unfairly. I explained to the attorney general my decision and the reasons for it. That’s what I was required to do.”

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White House spokesperson Ian Sams pushed back on Hur’s remarks, saying his testimony underscored why the special counsel did not bring criminal charges.

“The bottom line is the case is closed,” Sams told reporters.

Some Democrats argued that Hur’s discussion of Biden’s memory was unnecessary and inappropriate. Representative Adam Schiff suggested Hur was aware his analysis would have a “maximal political impact.”

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Reuters/Ipsos polling shows that almost four in five Americans, including a large majority of Democrats, believe Biden is too old to work in government. A little more than half of respondents said that of Trump, 77.

“You must have understood the impact of your words,” Schiff said, accusing Hur of making a “political choice.”

Hur said politics played no part in his report, which drew anger from the White House after he released it last month.

Freewheeling answers

A transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden reviewed by Reuters, conducted last October as Biden grappled with the fallout from Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel, showed the president brought up the issue of his memory first.

“I’m a young man, so it’s not a problem,” Biden said jokingly to Hur when the prosecutor said he’d be asking questions about events that happened years earlier, the transcript showed.

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The transcript showed Biden gave freewheeling answers to many of Hur’s questions, but struggled to recall certain details, including when he left the vice presidency.

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Trump faces additional charges in classified docs case

Hur appeared before Congress the week after Biden made a fiery State of the Union speech that signaled an aggressive start to the Democratic president’s reelection campaign against Trump.

Hur’s report cited distinctions between the Biden and Trump documents cases, including alleged acts of obstruction by Trump, but Republican lawmakers accused prosecutors of a double standard.

“Joe Biden broke the law but because he’s a forgetful old man who would appear sympathetic to a jury, Mr. Hur chose not to bring charges,” said Republican Representative Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary committee’s chair.

Biden, the oldest person to serve as U.S. president, lashed out against the characterization in public remarks after the report’s release, saying his memory was fine, and Vice President Kamala Harris called the report politically motivated.

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Hur was appointed as a U.S. attorney by Trump and made special counsel by Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland after Biden’s documents surfaced. His appointment ended on Monday, the department said.

–Reporting by Makini Brice and Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Alistair Bell

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