Feb 15, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Hur making plans to testify to GOP panel about Biden

Robert Hur is shown behind a podium and wearing a blue suit, white shirt, red tie.

Robert Hur in 2019, when he was U.S. attorney for Maryland. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Special counsel Robert Hur is in final talks to publicly testify before Congress in early March about his report on President Biden's handling of classified documents, a GOP aide tells Axios.

Why it matters: House Republicans are salivating about the chance to ask Hur about Biden's fitness for office.

  • Biden, his White House and his personal lawyer have been bashing Hur over his report, which cleared Biden of criminal wrongdoing but painted the president, 81, as having "diminished faculties" and a "poor memory."

Zoom in: Hur already is thinking about his testimony and has reached out to former Justice Department colleagues to potentially help him prepare, a person familiar with the matter told Axios.

  • Hur, a former U.S. attorney who was a Trump appointee, has been in discussions with Sarah Isgur — the head of public affairs and a senior counselor to Trump's deputy attorney general during the Mueller investigation — to help him navigate a congressional hearing.

Zoom out: During the past week, Biden's team — including his personal lawyer Bob Bauer — has called Hur's report "gratuitous," "shoddy," "politically motivated," "inappropriate," and "inconsistent with [Justice Department] policy and norms."

  • The report was the result of a year-long investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents after he was vice president.
  • Hur likely would testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee, and be asked to address the Biden team's characterization of the report.
  • The Justice Department declined to comment.
  • A person close to Biden's team told Axios: "As Hur mounts his campaign, there will be another story to tell — of Hur and his deputy being two aggressive political prosecutors from the Trump administration who decided to gun for Biden in an election year for their own political futures as Republicans."

Hur's testimony could help clarify a part of the report that particularly angered Biden — Hur's writing that the president "did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died."

  • Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015; he was 46.
  • Joe Biden was infuriated by the report's claim, telling reporters hours after the report was released: "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."
  • NBC News reported Wednesday that during Hur's interviews: "It was the president, not Hur or his team, who first introduced Beau Biden's death." Axios has not been able to independently verify the report.
  • The White House hasn't said whether Biden misremembered his son's death by "several years," as Hur wrote. Asked whether that part of Hur's report was inaccurate, a White House spokesperson did not respond.

Between the lines: The disputes over the report's contents will put further pressure on the White House to authorize the release of the transcript of Hur's five-plus hours of interviews of Biden on Oct. 8 and 9, just after the Israel-Hamas war began.

  • Any release would have to undergo a security review. The White House hasn't committed to release it, and House Republicans could issue a subpoena for the interviews' transcript and recordings if their request for it this week is denied.

Legal scholars have criticized Hur's descriptions of Biden's age and memory as a cheap shot, but some Democrats worry Hur's testimony and the transcript could undermine Biden's initial response as he tried to dismiss the report's conclusions about his mental acuity.

The bottom line: House Republicans' impeachment inquiry into the president so far hasn't produced the damning evidence that GOP leaders said it would.

  • Now they see a new opportunity to ding Biden ahead of the 2024 election by digging into the details of Hur's investigation.
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