Mar 12, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Top takeaways from Robert Hur's testimony on Biden investigation

Robert Hur

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

From the start, hot election-year politics shadowed former special counsel Robert Hur's testimony Tuesday about his report on President Biden's mishandling of classified documents.

The big picture: Both Republicans and Democrats came prepped to try to humiliate the other party's elderly presidential candidate. Videos of Biden (81) and former President Trump (77) committing gaffes or fumbling for words dominated the hearing's first few minutes.

Why it matters: The videos kicked off a contentious back-and-forth over Hur's report, which cast Biden's age and forgetfulness as factors in the special counsel's decision not to charge the president.

  • Democrats spent much of the hearing pecking away at Hur's description of Biden's acuity and questioning Hur's motivations.
  • Republicans demanded to know why Biden hadn't been charged, like Trump was in his classified documents case.

Here are more key takeaways from Tuesday's hearing:

1. Hur under bipartisan fire.

  • Democrats made a point of getting Hur — a Trump appointee as a former U.S. attorney — to acknowledge that he is a Republican.
  • Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) accused Hur of "doing everything you can" to get Trump re-elected, while Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) asked Hur to pledge that he would not accept a judicial appointment from Trump. Hur wouldn't do that.
  • Republicans, meanwhile, cast Hur as a tool of the D.C. "swamp" who was protecting a longtime politician and other "elites," as Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) put it.

2. "We did not exonerate him."

  • When Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) tried to portray Hur's report as an exoneration of Biden, Hur came back with cold water: "We did not exonerate him."
  • Instead, Hur repeated his claim in the report that he doubted a jury would convict Biden because the president comes across as "a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

3. Biden's case isn't Trump's case.

  • Republicans didn't get much satisfaction when they pressed Hur on a part of his report that annoyed them the most: The significant differences between the Biden case and the one in which Trump was charged.
  • Biden cooperated with investigators, agreed to searches and volunteered to be interviewed. Trump is accused of hiding documents from investigators and lying about having them — "serious aggravating facts," Hur's report said.

4. A more nuanced look at Biden's memory.

  • The transcript of Biden's five hours of interviews with Hur was released just before the hearing — and portrays the president as having mental lapses in recalling when he was vice president and when his son Beau died.
  • But the transcript also recounts a jovial, cooperative Biden whose memory was sharp on other matters — such as the renovation of his Wilmington, Delaware, home, which so impressed Hur that he told Biden he had a "photographic understanding" of the house.
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