Robert Hur testifies before Congress on Biden classified documents probe

Robert Hur, the special counsel who challenged the president’s competence and age in his report on how Joe Biden handled classified documents, publicly testified before Congress today, taking questions from both Republicans and Democrats.

Hur appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. His 345-page report, released to the public in February, found that no criminal charges were warranted in the president’s handling of classified documents after he left the vice presidency.

But in explaining how he had arrived at his decision, Hur wrote that Biden would likely present himself to a jury "as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory." He suggested Biden could not even remember during questioning when his adult son Beau had died.

Hur said his report's discussion of Biden's memory was "necessary and accurate and fair" because his state of mind was an important part of evaluating whether he committed a crime.

"I did not sanitize my explanation nor did I disparage the president unfairly," he said.

LINK: Read the full transcripts of Hur's interviews with the president


Former Special Counsel Robert K. Hur testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on March 12, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Here’s what to know ahead of Hur’s testimony on Capitol Hill:

Who is Robert Hur?

Hur is a Republican appointed to his role as U.S. attorney by former President Donald Trump. Hur’s defenders say he has shown throughout his career that his work is guided by only facts and the law — not politics.

A review of Hur’s professional life shows he’s no stranger to politically charged investigations, both as a top Justice Department official and as Maryland’s chief federal law enforcement officer. 

As the top aide to the Justice Department’s deputy attorney general in 2017 and early 2018, Hur helped monitor special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

FILE - United States Attorney Robert Hur speaks at a news conference about the indictment of Kevin Merrill, Jay Ledford, and Cameron Jezierski by a Maryland grand jury at the U.S. Attorney's Office, on Sept. 19, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

FILE - United States Attorney Robert Hur speaks at a news conference about the indictment of Kevin Merrill, Jay Ledford, and Cameron Jezierski by a Maryland grand jury at the U.S. Attorney's Office, on Sept. 19, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo b

He has also prosecuted a number of political figures — including former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh — as U.S. attorney for Maryland from 2018 to 2021.

After stepping down as U.S. attorney, Hur joined the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm. Among his clients was Facebook in a case brought by D.C.’s attorney general that sought to punish the social networking company for allowing data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data from as many as 87 million users. Hur succeeded in getting that case dismissed last year, though D.C. has appealed.

Robert Hur’s report on Biden

Hur’s report found evidence that Biden willfully retained and shared highly classified information when he was a private citizen, including about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, but concluded that criminal charges were not warranted.

In fact, he devoted much of the report to explaining why he did not believe the evidence met the standard for criminal charges, partly based on five hours of interviews with the president.

Hur said it could be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Biden intended to keep the documents, which is the standard for conviction in a criminal case. In part, he argued, jurors could be swayed that Biden’s age made him seem forgetful, and there was the possibility for "innocent explanations" for the mishandling of any records.

"Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," Hur wrote in his report.

RELATED: Biden has annual physical at Walter Reed, president ‘remains fit’ for duty, doctor says

Democrats have lashed out at Hur over the remarks about Biden’s age and mental acuity. They argue the digs were unnecessary and could help Republicans trying to unseat Biden in 2024.

The report's release triggered instant comparisons to the history-shaping events of 2016, when FBI Director James Comey castigated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her email practices but did not recommend pressing charges. In both the Biden and Clinton cases, the language used to characterize the subjects has been as closely scrutinized — and criticized — as the decision not to prosecute. Comey, too, went before a congressional committee, where he offered an impassioned public defense of how he had handled the issue.

"My assessment in the report about the relevance of the President’s memory was necessary and accurate and fair," Hur said in prepared testimony ahead of Tuesday’s hearing. "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."

Biden told investigators he didn’t remember finding any classified material in his home after his vice presidency or telling his ghostwriter that he found "classified stuff downstairs," Hur said. And Biden also didn’t remember how the documents about Afghanistan got into his garage, Hur said.

In his prepared remarks, Hur said he was aware of the need to explain in great detail why he’d decided not to charge the president. Such explanations are common but usually kept confidential; and so he didn’t hold back, particularly in this case.

"The need to show my work was especially strong here," he says in his prepared remarks. "The Attorney General had appointed me to investigate the actions of the Attorney General’s boss, the sitting President of the United States. I knew that for my decision to be credible, I could not simply announce that I recommended no criminal charges and leave it at that. I needed to explain why."

Hur cautioned in his testimony that he would not discuss investigative steps or veer from the contents of the report. He said "the evidence and the President himself put his memory squarely at issue."

Lawmakers on both sides will try to turn the hearing to their political advantage: Hur will be the rare witness likely to be vilified all around, by Republicans angry over his decision not to charge the president, and by Democrats for his commentary about Biden.

RELATED: 6 in 10 people doubt Biden, Trump mental capabilities in new AP poll

The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.