Robert Hur Hearing Fizzles As Former Special Counsel Deflects Questions About Biden’s Age

Hur refused to say that Joe Biden was "senile" or otherwise unfit for office, despite lawmakers' best efforts.
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WASHINGTON — Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wis.) asked former Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur point-blank: Is Joe Biden “senile”?

In a February report declaring that no charges were warranted against Biden for mishandling classified documents, Hur had described the president as an “elderly man with a poor memory” — but at a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill, he wouldn’t go any further.

“That conclusion does not appear in my report, congressman,” Hur said, later explaining that his description of Biden’s “memory gaps” only mattered for how the president would seem to a jury.

Hur deflected dozens of questions from lawmakers in similar fashion, declining to play along with their hypotheticals or make damaging statements about either Biden or former President Donald Trump — who, unlike his successor, does face charges for mishandling classified material, as well as obstructing federal investigators.

Republicans complained over and over that Biden should have been charged with a crime, while Democrats emphasized Biden’s cooperation with Hur’s investigation and occasionally criticized Hur for calling Biden old. They also played a clip reel of Trump, who’s seeking to retake the White House from Biden, stumbling over his words and saying that he couldn’t remember things.

Hur insisted that politics played no part in his decisions, noting that the law required him to prepare a confidential report for the attorney general about his prosecutorial decisions.

“You say it wasn’t political and you must have understood the impact of your words,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “You must have understood the impact of your decision to go beyond the specifics of a particular document to go to the very general, to your own personal, prejudicial, subjective opinion of the president, one you knew would be amplified by his political opponent, one you knew that would influence a political campaign.”

Hur shot back: “What you are suggesting is that I shape, sanitize, omit portions of my reasoning and explanation to the attorney general for political reasons. That is nowhere in the rules.”

One anecdote that was used by Hur’s report to show Biden’s forgetfulness involved the president not remembering what year his son Beau Biden died of brain cancer — a pivotal event in 2015 that contributed to Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president in the following year’s election.

A transcript of the interview between Hur and Biden, released by the Justice Department on Tuesday morning, showed that when he was asked about a time period after his vice presidency in 2017 and 2018 — when he was writing a memoir and living in Virginia — Biden had described his son as either “deployed or is dying.”

As Hur put it, “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) said that Hur needed to “correct the record” about the anecdote, since the transcript showed that Biden did remember the month and day of his son’s death, if not the year. (Dean initially claimed, incorrectly, that Hur had asked Biden what month his son died; it was Biden who brought it up.)

“What month did Beau die? Oh God, May 30th,” Biden had said, before several aides chimed in to say it was 2015.

In response to a question from House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Hur suggested that Biden’s attorneys repeatedly helping him answer certain questions reflected poorly on the president.

“It was a wealth of details about being there in the moment with the president, including his inability to recall certain things, and I’ll also say, as reflected in the transcript, the fact that he was prompted on numerous occasions by members of the White House counsel’s office,” Hur said.

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) complained that Hur’s report omitted a statement that Hur made to Biden in their interview during a somewhat offhand conversation about Biden’s lake house in Wilmington, Delaware.

“You said, to President Biden, ‘You appear to have a photographic understanding and recall of the house,’” Swalwell said, with a poster bearing Hur’s remark behind him.

“That word does appear on page 47 of the transcript,” Hur said.

“Never appeared in your report, though, is that correct?” Swalwell asked.

“It does not appear in my report,” Hur said.

Swalwell then played another video of Trump slurring his words.

Rep. Nathaniel Moran (R-Texas) said Hur’s report made him concerned that Biden needed a court-appointed legal guardian to handle his personal finances. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), meanwhile, suggested that Biden may be less senile and “a little craftier, a little more devious, and perhaps a little more intentional than we might otherwise think.”

Toward the end of the hearing, Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) tried to get Hur to say if he thought Biden needed a legal guardian or if he thought Biden was unfit for office.

“My report did not include any opinions on those issues,” Hur said.

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