Special counsel to defend comments on Biden’s memory as transcript emerges

Robert Hur, the justice department special counsel assigned to report on Joe Biden’s possession of classified documents, will reportedly say he was just doing his job when he shook up the US election campaign by criticizing the president’s apparent inability to recall certain events.

In his report released in February, Hur, a former US attorney appointed by Donald Trump, recommended Biden not be charged for possessing classified documents. But he infuriated the president’s Democratic allies by making repeated references to Biden’s age and memory as one reason for not indicting him, because jurors would see him “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.

A transcript of Hur’s interview with Biden, which lasted for hours over several days, seen by the New York Times shows the president fumbled occasionally with the sequence of events and certain dates, but otherwise was sharp throughout, and also corrected Hur and others when they made errors.

According to Politico, which obtained a draft of Hur’s planned remarks, he will say that his role was to determine whether Biden had “willfully” held on to classified documents. “I could not make that determination without assessing the President’s state of mind,” Hur planned to say. “For that reason, I had to consider the President’s memory and overall mental state, and how a jury likely would perceive his memory and mental state in a criminal trial … I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage the President unfairly. I explained to the Attorney General my decision and the reasons for it. That’s what I was required to do.”

Republicans said Hur’s conclusion that Biden should not be charged was evidence of double standards at the justice department. A different special counsel, Jack Smith, has brought charges against Donald Trump for allegedly taking government secrets with him after leaving the White House and, unlike Biden, conspiring to keep them out of the hands of investigators.

Both men were appointed by Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, but operate independently, while justice department policy also prohibits the indictment of sitting presidents.

Lawmakers are expected to demand further details from Hur when the Republican-controlled House judiciary committee convenes at 10am ET on Tuesday. Led by Trump ally Jim Jordan, the panel’s Republicans are likely to press their case that the justice department under Garland has become a tool for retaliation against Trump and other enemies of Biden.

“Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation into President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents made two things clear: there’s a double standard of justice in this country and Joe Biden isn’t fit for office,” Jordan said in a statement last month.

Democrats, meanwhile, are expected to question Hur about why he made public specific details of Biden’s memory, such as his struggles to remember the exact year his son Beau Biden died, or when his term as vice-president ended. At 81, Biden is the oldest president to ever serve, and Trump and the Republicans have attacked him as unfit for a second term.

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