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Special counsel Robert Hur’s testimony: 5 takeaways from the hearing on his Biden classified documents probe

Republicans grilled Hur for not recommending criminal charges against Biden while Democrats sought to contrast the president’s cooperation with Trump’s alleged obstruction.

Former special counsel Robert Hur told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he did not unfairly disparage President Biden when he described the 81-year-old as “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” in a report that concluded he should not face criminal charges for “willfully” retaining and sharing highly classified information.

Hur began his testimony by defending his report, which came after a yearlong investigation into Biden’s handling of classified material found in the president’s former office in Washington, D.C., and his Delaware home.

"What I wrote is what I believe the evidence shows, and what I expect jurors would perceive and believe,” Hur said in his opening statement. “I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the President unfairly.”

Hur’s decision not to charge Biden infuriates Republicans

Former special counsel Robert Hur is sworn in to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Former special counsel Robert K. Hur is sworn in to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The special counsel’s decision not to recommend charges against Biden infuriated several Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee, including Rep. Tom McClintock of California, who said Hur had set a “frightening” precedent with his rationale that the president would present himself to a jury as an "elderly man with a poor memory."

“I want to get this straight: Is it now OK to take home top-secret documents, store them in my garage and read portions of them to friends and associates?” McClintock asked Hur. “All I have to do when I’m caught taking home classified material is to say, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Hur, but I’m getting old, my memory’s not so great’? This is the doctrine you’ve established in our laws now and it is frightening.”

“My intent is certainly not to establish any sort of doctrine,” Hur replied. “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.”

Dems contrast Biden’s cooperation with Trump’s alleged obstruction

Democrats on the Republican-led panel sought to paint Hur’s characterization of Biden’s mental acuity as an unnecessary smear against the president as he seeks a second term in office.

They repeatedly pointed to Biden’s cooperation with Hur’s investigation into his handling of classified documents — sitting for more than five hours of interviews over a two-day span — and contrasted it with former President Donald Trump, who is accused of obstructing a federal probe into his handling of sensitive material found at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after he left office.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California asked Hur a series of yes or no questions to highlight the disparity between Biden's and Trump’s response to classified document investigations.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden directed his lawyer to lie to the FBI?
Hur: We identified no such evidence.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden directed his lawyer to destroy classified documents?
Hur: No.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden directed his personal assistant to move boxes of documents to hide them from the FBI?
Hur: No.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden directed his personal assistant to delete security camera footage after the FBI asked for that footage?
Hur: No.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden showed a classified map related to an ongoing military operation to a campaign aide who did not have clearance?
Hur: No.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice?
Hur: No.

Lieu: Did you find that President Biden engaged in a scheme to conceal?
Hur: No.

“Each of the activities I just laid out describe what Donald Trump did,” Lieu told Hur. “In contrast, President Biden handed over documents without delay and complied fully with investigators.”

Schiff blasts Hur’s questioning of Biden’s memory

Adam Schiff speaks during the hearing on Capitol Hill. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Rep. Adam Schiff speaks during Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, grilled Hur over his decision to include his assessment of Biden’s mental acuity in his final report.

“You were not born yesterday; you understood exactly what you were doing,” Schiff said. “You cannot tell me you’re so naive to think your words would not have created a political firestorm.

“You must have understood the impact of your words,” he continued. “Your own personal, prejudicial, subjective opinion of the president, one you knew would be amplified by his political opponent. You had to understand that, and you did it anyway.”

“Congressman, what you are suggesting is that I shape, sanitize, omit portions of my reasoning,” Hur said before Schiff cut him off.

“You made a choice,” Schiff said. “That was a political choice; it was the wrong choice.”

Hur says his report was not an exoneration

Robert Hur testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington on Tuesday.
Robert Hur testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Democrats also suggested that Hur’s decision not to recommend criminal charges was “an exoneration” of Biden — an assertion that Hur denied.

In one particularly testy exchange, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat representing the state of Washington, read aloud sections of Hur’s report stating he did not have evidence to charge Biden with crimes, and said they amounted to an exoneration.

“I did not exonerate him,” Hur interjected. “That word does not appear in my report.”

Raskin rails against Republicans for holding a hearing in the first place

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, used part of his allotted time for questions to tear into Republicans for what he described as a “spectacle” while Trump cozies up to authoritarian figures like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whom the former president dined with at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend.

“That's what all of this is about,” Raskin said. “It's about trying to pull the wool over the eyes of America because the tyrants and dictators of the world are on the march today. So who wins with this ludicrous embarrassing spectacle? Orbán wins. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wins. [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] wins. The tyrants of the world win. They have one more reason to celebrate Donald Trump and his cult followers, who've completely lost their way.”