Special counsel in Biden classified documents probe testifies before Congress

Robert Hur, the special counsel who spent a year investigating President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, testified Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee.

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He appeared before the committee just over a month after the Justice Department released his lengthy report. He found that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified information” but that no charges were warranted.

The hearing began around 10 a.m.

After brief round of questioning, hearing ends

Update 3 p.m. EST March 12: After Hur answered additional questions from a handful of lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, Tuesday’s hearing concluded for the afternoon.

Hur defended his report during the hearing, saying, “I stand by every word in the document.”

Hearing resumes after brief break

Update 2:35 p.m. EST March 12: The House Judiciary Committee reconvened before 2:30 p.m. to continue hearing testimony from Hur.

Hearing breaks to allow lawmakers to vote

Update 1:55 p.m. EST March 12: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan recessed Tuesday’s meeting to allow members to enter two votes on the floor.

The hearing, which started around 10 a.m., will reconvene 10 minutes after the final vote, Jordan said.

“Mr. Hur, we have votes on the floor,” he said. “We have a few more members who will do their five minutes of questioning, so we’re going to recess.”

The Ohio Republican added, “We’ll get back here as soon as we can”

Hur: ‘I did not exonerate’ Biden

Update 1:10 p.m. EST March 12: Hur clarified Tuesday that his report did not determine Biden’s guilt or innocence in regard to his handling of classified materials found at his home and former office.

In a back-and-forth with Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., he emphasized that the term “exoneration” was not used in his report.

“That word does not appear in the report,” he said.

He later reiterated his statements under questioning from Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif.

He said he did not “find Biden guilty or not guilty. That is not what my report does. That is not what the report says.”

“As I said, the report is not an exoneration,” he added.

AG Garland did not interfere with Biden investigation, Hur says

Update 1:05 p.m. EDT March 12: Hur testified that Attorney General Merrick Garland did not get involved in his investigation into Biden’s handling of classified materials.

“Attorney General Garland did not interfere with my efforts and I was able to conduct a fair, thorough and independent investigation.”

Special counsel declines to say he wouldn’t accept position in Trump administration

Update 12:45 p.m. EDT March 12: Under questioning from Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Hur declined to pledge that he would not accept an appointment from former President Donald Trump should he win the 2024 presidential election.

“I’m not here to offer any opinions about what may or may not happen in the future,” he said. “I’m here to talk about the work that went into the report, which I stand by.”

Hur denies politics influenced his report

Update 11:50 a.m. EDT March 12: Hur, a registered Republican, denied that politics influenced his investigation or the conclusions he drew in his lengthy report about the investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents.

“Partisan politics played no part whatsoever in my work,” he said under questioning from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. “My work was independent and fair.”

Johnson asked whether Hur included information in the report that was aimed at damaging Biden’s reputation and showing him as unfit for office amid the 2024 presidential election.

Hur is a registered Republican.

“You’re doing everything you can do to get President Trump reelected so that you can get appointed as a federal judge or perhaps to another position in the Department of Justice, isn’t that correct?” Johnson asked.

Hur made a disbelieving sound before answering, “Congressman, I have no such aspirations, I can assure you. And I can tell you that partisan politics had no part whatsoever in my work, it had no place in the investigative steps that I took, it had no place in the decision that I made and it had no place in a single word of my report.”

Not all elements of federal criminal violation met, Hur says

Update 11:30 a.m. EDT March 12: Under questioning from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Hur denied that he found all the elements of a federal criminal violation had been met in his investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents.

“Congressman, I need to disagree with at least one thing that you said which is that I found that all of the elements were met,” he said.

“One of the elements of the relevant mishandling statute is the intent element, and what my report reflects is my judgment, based on the evidence, I would not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that that intent element had been met.”

Jordan: Biden broke rules regarding handling of classified documents to sell his book

Update 11:05 a.m. EST March 12: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that Biden mishandled classified documents despite his longtime in public service in order to sell his 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad.”

“He knew the rules. He broke them because he was writing a book,” Jordan said. He confirmed with Hur that Biden got $8 million for the work, adding, “Joe Biden had $8 million reasons to break the rules.”

“Pride and money is why he knowingly violated the rules,” he said. “The oldest motives in the book: pride and money.”

In response, Hur said, “That language does appear in the report and we did identify evidence supporting those assessments.”

Hur: Evidence ‘would not probably result in a conviction at trial’

Update 11 a.m. EST March 12: In response to questioning from Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Hur said he assessed the evidence in Biden’s case and determined that “if presented at trial alongside potential defense arguments, (it) would not probably result in a conviction at trial.”

Hur denied having established a precedent regarding when to prosecute when officials are accused of mishandling classified documents, saying that his decision was limited only to the circumstances of the case.

“My intent is certainly not to establish any sort of doctrine,” he said. “I had a particular task, I had a particular set of evidence to consider and make a judgment with respect to one particular set of evidence, and that is what I did.”

Lawmakers have several times compared Biden’s case with that of former President Donald Trump, who is facing federal charges related to his handling of hundreds of classified documents retrieved from his Florida estate in 2022.

Hur delivers opening statements ahead of testimony

Update 10:40 a.m. EST March 12: Hur said his 345-page report “reflects my best effort to explain why I declined to recommend charging President Biden” in an opening statement before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“I analyzed the evidence as prosecutors routinely do: by assessing its strengths and weaknesses, including by anticipating the ways in which the president’s defense lawyers might poke holes in the government’s case if there were a trial and seek to persuade jurors that the government could not prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

He added that his discussion of Biden’s recall and his age was standard for a prosecutor in his position.

“My assessment in the report about the relevance of the president’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair,” he said. “Most importantly, what I wrote is what I believe the evidence shows, and what I expect jurors would perceive and believe. I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the President unfairly.”

Democrats contrast Biden, Trump’s handling of classified documents

Update 10:25 a.m. EDT March 12: Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, used his opening statement to contrast Biden’s handling of classified documents with former President Donald Trump’s.

Trump faces criminal charges for his handling of classified documents after authorities said they found hundreds of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 2022. Nadler noted that Trump declined to hand over the documents despite several opportunities.

“That is a man who is incapable of avoiding criminal liability, a man who is wholly unfit for office and a man who, at the very least, ought to think twice before accusing others of cognitive decline,” Nadler said.

House Judiciary Committee hearing begins

Update 10:15 a.m. EDT March 12: The hearing began just after 10 a.m. on Tuesday with an opening statement from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and a clip of President Joe Biden responding to portions of the report.

House Judiciary Democrats release transcript of Hur’s interviews with Biden

Update 10:05 a.m. EDT March 12: Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee released transcripts from Hur’s interviews of Biden ahead of a hearing to discuss his investigation on Tuesday.

Hur interviewed Biden on Oct. 8 and 9.

Original report: Hur is expected to face tough questioning from both Democrats and Republicans over his decision not to charge Biden and the language he used to describe the president in his report, according to The New York Times.

The report intensified scrutiny over Biden’s age as the president aims for a second term in the White House. It also sparked objections from attorneys representing the president over what they called “highly prejudicial language” used to describe Biden and his ability to recall events.

In the report, Hur described the president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who was likely to be acquitted by a jury if charged.

At 81, Biden is the oldest serving president.

In a prepared opening statement obtained by CNN, Hur defended his comments about Biden’s memory as “necessary and accurate and fair.”

“I did not sanitize my explanation,” he said. “Nor did I disparage the President unfairly.”

He said he declined to file charges against Biden — despite finding some evidence that he kept classified materials after his earlier term as vice president — because the evidence was not strong enough.

“We did not ... identify evidence that rose to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. He added that with his report, he needed to show the work that went into his decision.

“The need to show my work was especially strong here,” he said. “The Attorney General had appointed me to investigate the actions of the Attorney General’s boss, the sitting President of the United States. I knew that for my decision to be credible, I could not simply announce that I recommended no criminal charges and leave it at that. I needed to explain why.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped Hur to investigate Biden in January 2023 after records with classified markings were found in an office Biden used and his home in Delaware. He previously served as a U.S. attorney and as principal associate deputy attorney general of the Justice Department.

Hur resigned from the Justice Department last week following the completion of his investigation, The Washington Post reported. He will be testifying Tuesday as a private citizen.

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