Updated Feb 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Special counsel report questions Biden's memory

President Joe Biden departs the stage after delivering remarks on new efforts to crack down on hidden junk fees in the Rose Garden of the White House October 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.

President Biden departs the stage after delivering remarks on new efforts to crack down on hidden junk fees in the Rose Garden of the White House on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Special counsel Robert Hur is not bringing charges following his investigation into President Biden's handling of classified documents, but wrote in a report released Thursday that Biden's actions presented "serious risks to national security."

Why it matters: The report ends a year-long and sprawling investigation but also concluded that Biden "willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen."

Driving the news: The report said that "Biden's memory also appeared to have significant limitations," citing his interview with the special counsel's office and recorded conversations with his ghostwriter.

  • "He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died," the report said.
  • "We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

The other side: Biden's personal counsel Bob Bauer and Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, refuted the characterizations of Biden's memory during a letter to Hur, which was included in the report.

  • "We do not believe that the report's treatment of President Biden's memory is accurate or appropriate," Sauber and Bauer wrote.
  • "The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events."

What he's saying: "I cooperated completely, threw up no roadblocks, and sought no delays," Biden said of the investigation in a statement Thursday.

  • "In fact, I was so determined to give the Special Counsel what they needed that I went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on October 8th and 9th of last year, even though Israel had just been attacked on October 7th and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis."
  • "I just believed that's what I owed the American people so they could know no charges would be brought and the matter closed."

Zoom in: The report included detailed photos of the documents, which included some marked as "top secret/sensitive compartmented information" and related to foreign policy in Afghanistan.

  • One of the folders of classified documents included more than 200 pages "related to the fall 2009 Afghanistan policy review, with a date range from approximately August through October 2009," per the report.

Zoom out: Trump, who resisted the government's efforts to retrieve the classified documents, was charged with 40 criminal counts, including obstruction of justice and willful retention of national defense information.

  • Trump's indictment included photos of the former president storing the documents in various locations around Mar-a-Lago, including in a bathroom.
  • The former president and GOP frontrunner faces 91 criminal counts across four different cases.

The big picture: Hur, a former U.S. attorney nominated by Trump, was appointed in January of 2023 to investigate after Obama-era classified documents were discovered in a private office and at Biden's garage at his home in Delaware.

  • Garland said at the time that Hur's appointment was indicative of the department's "commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters."
  • Hur led a year-long probe into Biden's handling of classified documents, including interviewing dozens of witnesses.
  • The special counsel interviewed Biden for two days in October in a sign that the investigation was nearing its end.

Go deeper: How Biden and Trump's classified doc discoveries have differed

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