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Hur insists that he ‘did not exonerate’ Biden, repeatedly shuts down Democrat characterizations

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Ex-Special Counsel Robert Hur testified on Tuesday that he ‘did not exonerate’ President Biden in his report detailing the investigation into mishandling of classified records, repeatedly shutting down Democrat lawmakers’ characterizations.

Hur, who resigned as special counsel after releasing his report that found Biden willfully retained classified records but did not bring charges against him, testified publicly Tuesday for House members.

Democrats seized on the fact that Hur did not bring charges against the president, saying he exonerated the president completely.

‘President Biden acted responsibly, cooperated completely, and the decision to … decline criminal charges was relatively straightforward,’ the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said Tuesday morning. ‘The report represents the complete and total exoneration of President Biden.’

‘The special counsel exonerates President Biden,’ said Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., also said Hur ‘exonerated him.’

But Hur pushed back.

‘I did not exonerate him,’ Hur told Jayapal. ‘That word does not appear in my report.’

When questioned about Nadler and Raskin’s characterizations of his report as an ‘exoneration,’ Hur fired back again.

‘That is not what my report does,’ Hur testified.

When asked again if his report is a ‘total and complete exoneration,’ Hur said ‘that is not what the report says.’

When asked if the ranking members’ statements were incorrect, Hur replied, ‘Yes.’

‘The word exoneration does not appear anywhere in my report, and that is not my conclusion,’ Hur said.

Later, Hur again testified that his report ‘is not an exhaustive exoneration.’

Hur explained on Tuesday why he did not bring charges against the president despite the willful retention of classified records about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and other countries, among other records related to national security and foreign policy, which Hur said implicated ‘sensitive intelligence sources and methods.’

‘My team and I conducted a thorough, independent investigation,’ he testified. ‘We identified evidence that the president willfully retained classified materials after the end of his vice presidency, when he was a private citizen.’

‘This evidence included an audio-recorded conversation during which Mr. Biden told his ghostwriter that he had ‘just found all the classified stuff downstairs.’ When Mr. Biden said this, he was a private citizen speaking to his ghostwriter in his private rental home in Virginia,’ Hur continued. ‘We also identified other recorded conversations during which Mr. Biden read classified information aloud to his ghostwriter.’

He added that ‘we did not, however, identify evidence that rose to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the evidence fell short of that standard, I declined to recommend criminal charges against Mr. Biden.’ 

But Hur said he ‘needed to explain why’ he declined prosecution. 

‘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,’ Hur testified. ‘These are the types of issues prosecutors analyze every day. And because these issues were important to my ultimate decision, I had to include a discussion of them in my report to the attorney general.’

Hur in his report described Biden as a ‘sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory’ – a description that has raised significant concerns for Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign.

‘The evidence and the president himself put his memory squarely at issue. We interviewed the president and asked him about his recorded statement, ‘I just found all the classified stuff downstairs.’ He told us that he didn’t remember saying that to his ghostwriter,’ Hur said. ‘He also said he didn’t remember finding any classified material in his home after his vice presidency. And he didn’t remember anything about how classified documents about Afghanistan made their way into his garage.’

Hur defended himself by saying his assessment in the report ‘about the relevance of the president’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair.’

‘Most importantly, what I wrote is what I believe the evidence shows and what I expect jurors would perceive and believe. I did not sanitize my explanation, nor did I disparage the president unfairly,’ he testified. ‘I explained to the attorney general my decision and the reasons for it. That’s what I was required to do.’

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