Mar 14, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Hours after Oct. 7 Hamas attack, Biden saw it as world-changing: transcript

President Biden is shown sitting at a long table at a meeting with others.

President Biden speaks during a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk at the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The day after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, President Biden was already talking about it as a world-altering event that could reverberate through the 21st century.

Why it matters: The president's raw reaction to the attack is captured in the transcript from his five hours of interviews with special counsel Robert Hur on Oct. 8 and 9.

Zoom in: From the first hours after the attack, Biden — who for decades identified himself as a "Zionist" — expressed full support for Israel and ordered the U.S. government to mobilize military and diplomatic support for the U.S. key ally in the Middle East.

Driving the news: At several moments during the interviews, Biden references the events in Israel.

  • "We may be interrupted," he told Hur at the beginning of his interview on Oct. 8. "I just got off the phone with Bibi Netanyahu."
  • The phone calls Biden had with Netanyahu that weekend were dramatic.
  • The Israeli prime minister was still shaken by the surprise attack involving Hamas militants who killed more than 1,200 Israelis — mostly civilians — and kidnapped more than 250 hostages.

At one point during his Oct. 8 interview with Hur, Biden opined on the potential consequences of the new crisis in the Middle East.

  • "I think the world goes through these major inflection points where what's happening at that moment — and the two, four years around either side of it — and the outcome of those discussions determine what the next six, seven decades look like," Biden said.
  • "I think that's where we are right now. For example, I think the Israeli thing has changed it all."

The big picture: As Hur was probing about Biden's handling of classified documents as vice president, Biden began explaining how he was handling documents during his emergency consultation over the Oct. 7 weekend.

  • "It was a secure call ... and I ordered one of my papers and I got on the phone. I said (to) Jake (Sullivan) and Tony Blinken...I said guys, we got to follow up on boom, boom, boom, what's going to happen here," Biden told Hur, referring to the president's national security advisor and secretary of state.
  • "And then I took my papers ... put them in a pile, and they are sitting in the middle of my desk."
  • Hur eventually submitted a report that caused a political firestorm because he decided not to charge the president with mishandling classified documents — but also commented about Biden's memory lapses during the interviews.

Behind the scenes: During their Oct. 9 interview, Biden told Hur that he called Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who was in Israel on Oct. 7, to make sure he was OK.

  • "Even my staff wondered why the hell I'm calling Cory Booker to make sure he's safe. 'Why are you calling him?' Because I called when they were in, in — Jesus — in Israel," Biden told Hur.
  • "I called him when they got home because I wanted him to know I cared about him," Biden added.

What they're saying: The White House didn't respond to questions for this story.

  • A Booker spokesperson has confirmed that Biden called the senator when he was in Israel the weekend of the attacks.
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