Republicans in the House of Representatives have reportedly reached out to Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur about the possibility of his testifying before the Judiciary Committee over his investigation into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents.
Mr Hur, a Republican former US attorney for Maryland appointed to the task by US attorney general Merrick Garland, caused a furore last week after publishing a report that found the president had “wilfully” held onto highly-sensitive material after leaving office as Barack Obama’s vice president in January 2017 and that they had not been securely stored at his Delaware home or Washington DC office.
He did not charge Mr Biden with a crime but did include an astonishingly personal attack, describing his subject as likely to appear to a jury as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.
That assertion added fuel to the political fire already burning around the president’s alleged cognitive decline and seeming frailty as he seeks a second term in the White House at the age of 81.
The president himself reacted angrily to Mr Hur’s editorialising at an impromptu press conference organised to address the 388-page report, particularly its author’s claim that he could not remember the precise year his eldest son Beau Biden had passed away from brain cancer.
“How the hell dare he raise that?” the president fumed.
“Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business!”
However, Mr Biden only succeeded in making matters worse during the same session when he confused the presidents of Mexico and Egypt, a blunder coming in the same week that he had mixed up Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel with the long-dead Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl respectively.
According to CNN, House Republicans now hope to have the prosecutor deliver his testimony to the committee before the end of February, although no date has yet been confirmed.
Both special counsels appointed during the Trump administration, Robert Mueller and John Durham, were ultimately required to appear before Congress to discuss the reports they published so there are recent precedents for summoning Mr Hur, who has retained Bill Burck as his personal attorney, the same advocate who represented Mr Durham.
Mr Biden’s enemies in the House, who have already tried to impeach him and his Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in what appear to be baseless political stunts with little foundation in reality, have been quick to try to capitalise on the affair.
They have argued that the president’s mental wellbeing poses a national security risk and complained of a double-standard, given that Donald Trump was investigated for the same offence and indicted, quickly breezing over some key distinctions between the two cases.
Mr Trump, incidentally, is no spring chicken at 77 and has also frequently raised eyebrows with his own garbled rhetoric on the campaign trail, recently confusing primary opponent Nikki Haley with former House speaker Nancy Pelosi in a rally speech, another point GOP lawmakers appear intent on overlooking.
House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer, who is leading the faltering Republican effort to impeach the president, has meanwhile demanded that the Justice Department hand over the documents retrieved from Mr Biden’s properties so that his team can assess for themselves whether they were “used to help the Bidens’ influence peddling schemes”.
Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on Mr Comer’s committee, has previously blasted his dubious impeachment push by declaring: “This is an impeachment inquiry where no one has been able to define what criminal or constitutional offence they’re looking for. We don’t know what the crime is.”