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Democrats air Trump’s gaffes and criminal charges during hearing into Biden classified papers

It took fewer than 10 minutes into former Special Counsel Robert Hur’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee for the panel’s Democratic minority to offer their response to his report on his year-long probe into how documents with classification markings ended up in President Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former office in Washington, DC.

Mr Hur, a former Trump administration appointee at the Justice Department, sparked outrage last month among Mr Biden’s supporters — and from Mr Biden himself — when he attributed his decision not to seek any criminal charges against the president to his own judgment that he could not obtain a conviction because jurors might view Mr Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.

The ex-Maryland US attorney also used the report to mischaracterise a section of the nearly 300-page transcript of Mr Biden’s two-day interview with him and his staff, claiming that the president did not remember when his late son, Beau Biden, passed away. He also described Mr Biden’s memory as “photographic” on some matters and reported that he was unable to state beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Biden had any criminal intent with regard to the documents.

The response from Democrats? Look at Donald Trump!

The tone for the hearing was set early on, when New York Representative Jerry Nadler, the panel’s ranking Democrat, responded to Chairman Jim Jordan playing Mr Biden’s response to the report with a supercut of gaffes, slurred speech, and confused answers from Mr Trump, including one in which the former president could not remember the time period during which he was married to his second wife, Marla Maples.

The New Yorker, a veteran of the panel, used his opening statement to describe Mr Trump as “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”.

Citing Mr Hur’s work when it came to question the ex-prosecutor a few minutes later, Mr Nadler called the decision not to charge Mr Biden “straightforward,” citing the president’s decision to “completely” cooperate with the investigation. He then compared the evidence laid out against Mr Biden to the case against Mr Trump currently pending in a Florida federal court, on charges that the ex-president allegedly retained national defence information and obstructed an investigation into the same.

After eliciting a response from Mr Hur on his judgment that “criminal charges were not warranted” against Mr Biden, Mr Nadler returned again to the subject of Mr Trump, asking Mr Hur why the Justice Department sought a search warrant for Mr Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida home in August 2022.

Though the facts leading to the search have long been a matter of public record, Mr Hur replied that he was “not familiar” with the deliberations, at which point Mr Nadler informed him that DOJ sought the warrant because prosecutors “were concerned that Trump had lied about possession of [classified] documents, and might conceal or destroy them”.

Over and over again, Democrats on the panel used their five-minute rounds of questioning to ask Mr Hur about the former president and chide him for the references to Mr Biden’s memory, while Republicans returned again and again to his derogatory comments about the president.

Echoing Mr Nadler’s presentation, other Democratic members used similarly-edited mashups of Mr Trump’s malapropisms to detract from Mr Hur’s negative description of Mr Biden’s memory.

One member, Representative Eric Swalwell of California, did so after eliciting testimony from Mr Hur confirming that he described Mr Biden’s recollection of some subjects as “photographic” in the course of the interview, according to the transcript.

“Now I want to show you ... something that is absolutely not photographic,” he said, before playing the supercut of the ex-president.

Another Democrat on the panel, Pennsylvania’s Mary Gay Scanlon, was even more specific in her selections of footage depicting the former president, with all of her choices showing Mr Trump forgetting things.

“Let’s take a look at a different witness experiencing lapses in memory during a deposition,” she said.

Asked when he married his current wife, former First Lady Melania Trump, Mr Trump looked down for a moment and replied that he did not know.

The marathon session marked another milestone in House Republicans’ year-long effort to find grounds to impeach Mr Biden, or barring that, minimise the myriad scandals surrounding Mr Trump as he runs to reclaim the presidency and insulate himself from any criminal liability for the actions he took during end final months of his term and afterwards.

Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, said the only conclusion to draw after the three-hour hearing was that “there is no case” against Mr Biden and said the GOP had failed again in their effort to dirty him up in service of Mr Trump.

“The conclusion was simple, that there is no case here, the case is closed, it’s time to move on,” he said. “House Republicans tried to make it a big deal. They want to attack the president politically. They’re making it very obvious that they’re trying to help the former president, and it’s a failure”.

Asked whether it’s fair to say Mr Biden committed at least some wrongdoing given Mr Hur’s contention that he’d satisfied some elements of crimes even though he wasn’t seeking to charge the president, Mr Sams reminded reporters that in the US, there is a presumption of innocence when it comes to criminal investigations.

“When a prosecutor spends 15 months investigating a case, only to determine that there is no case here and that there will be no charge, and that the case is closed, it only affirms the innocence of the president,” he said.