Special counsel hearing live updates: Hur stands by not charging Biden, but says he wasn't exonerated

Robert Hur, who as special counsel conducted the yearlong probe into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents that ultimately absolved the president of legal culpability, will face questions today from members of the House Judiciary Committee.

MORE: Transcript from documents probe contradicts Biden's account of exchange with Hur over son's death

Hur, who was previously nominated by then-President Donald Trump as U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, wrote in his 388-page report published last month that he would not recommend charges against President Biden despite uncovering evidence that Biden "willfully retained" classified materials.

MORE: Robert Hur poised to defend findings of probe into Biden's handling of classified docs

In the course of explaining his rationale for that conclusion, Hur said that a potential jury would likely find Biden to be a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

Latest Developments

Mar 12, 12:22 PM

Schiff accuses Hur of politically 'shaping' report

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., picked up where his fellow Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson left off, accusing Hur of shading his report with his own "personal, prejudicial, subjective opinion of the president when you knew it would be amplified by his political opponent."

"You were not born yesterday," Schiff said. "You understood exactly what you were doing."

A visibly agitated Hur -- taking deep breaths, raising his voice, and attempting to speak over Schiff -- fired back, saying, What you are suggesting is that I shape, sanitize, omit portions of my reasoning and explanations to the attorney general for political reasons--"

"No, I suggest that you not shape your report for political reasons and that's what you did," Schiff shot back.

"That did not happen, Congressman," Hur replied. "That did not happen."

Mar 12, 12:16 PM

Democrats accuse Hur of seeking to damage Biden

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., lambasted Hur for his references to President Biden's age and memory, and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., quickly followed suit, appearing to catch Hur off guard and even flustering him as he defended his handling of his investigation and the language he included in his final report.

"You use your report to trash and smear President Biden because he said and in response to questions over a five-hour interview that he didn't recall how he got the documents, and you knew that that would play into the Republicans' narrative that the President is unfit for office because he's senile," Johnson said.

"Congressman, I reject the suggestion--" Hur attempted to respond before Johnson cut him off. Johnson then asked whether Hur was a member of the Republican Federalist Society, which Hur denied.

Hur did answer affirmatively to whether he was a Republican, which drew applause from one of the Republicans on the committee, Ken Buck.

Johnson then went further, suggesting that Hur wrote his report in order to damage Biden and evoke sympathy from former President Trump so he could secure a high-level appointment in his administration, should Trump be reelected.

"And you're doing everything you can do to get President Trump reelected, so that you can get appointed as a federal judge or perhaps to another position in the Department of Justice. Isn't that correct?" Johnson asked.

"Congressman, I have no such aspirations," Hur replied. "I can assure you and I can tell you that partisan politics had no place whatsoever in my work. It had no place in the investigative steps that I took. It had no place and the decision that I made, and it got no place in a single word of my report."

Mar 12, 11:44 AM

Hur testifies Biden never said documents were 'his'

Special counsel Robert Hur said that President Biden did not say that he believed any documents -- other than his own handwritten notes -- were his personal property, in contrast to former President Trump who has claimed multiple times that he held onto hundreds of classified documents because they were "my documents."

“We did not hear that from the president during his interview,” Hur said, responding to Rep. Zoe Lofgren who asked if Biden believed any of the documents turned over to investigators were, in fact, his own.

Rep. Jordan then began his line of questioning to Hur by pressing him over whether he ever determined what President Biden’s motive was in the evidence that he uncovered that he possessed classified documents.

“Congressman, the conclusion as to exactly why the president did what he did is not one that we explicitly address in the report,” Hur answered. “The report explains my decision to the attorney general that no criminal charges were warranted in this manner.”

Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, then sought to draw a connection between Biden’s efforts to secure money for a book deal following his vice presidency and Hur’s findings regarding his possession of classified documents.

“Pride and money is why he knowingly violated the rules,” Jordan said. “The oldest motives in the book, pride and money.”

Hur confirmed that his investigation found evidence “supporting those assessments” and also confirmed details from his report that the ghostwriter tasked by Biden with writing his book attempted to delete the audio recordings of his conversations with Biden.

Mar 12, 11:34 AM

Hur stays measured as he's challenged by both sides

More than an hour into his testimony, Robert Hur appears poised under intense questioning from both sides -- swatting away lawmakers seeking to leverage his testimony in order to incriminate the other party's leader.

As lawmakers invoke fascism and level accusations of a two-tiered justice system, the former special counsel is striking a decidedly measured posture.

He has not indulged Democrats' attempts to draw him into comparisons between Biden and Trump -- at times appearing to frustrate some members, including Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler. And he has not taken the bait from Republicans seeking to draw out details that could paint Joe Biden's conduct in a more negative light.

As he promised in his opening statement, Hur has restricted his testimony to the confines of his report.

Mar 12, 11:23 AM

Hur pressed on whether it's 'OK' to keep secret documents

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-CA, used his line of questioning to press Hur over whether it was "OK if I take home top secret documents, store them in my garage and read portions of them to friends or associates?"

"Congressman, I wouldn't recommend it," Hur said dryly. "But I don't want to entertain any hypotheticals."

"But you've essentially said so in your report!" McClintock responded. "And certainly it would be exculpatory if I simply told you, 'Hey, I'm getting old. I don't remember stuff the way I used to.'"

McClintock then argued that Hur had decided not to prosecute Biden "for the same offense" Trump has been charged with in his case involving unlawful retention of classified materials and efforts to obstruct the government's investigation -- even though Biden was not accused of obstruction.

"Congressman, I do address as I was required to as a prosecutor a relevant precedent in the form of the allegations in the indictment against former President Trump," Hur said. "I set forth my explanation in my assessment and comparison to those precedents in my report, and I am not here to comment any further."

Mar 12, 11:14 AM

Under questioning, Hur stands by not charging Biden

Under questioning from lawmakers, Republicans pressed Hur on how the evidence he gathered failed to indicate criminal behavior, while Democrats pressed him on comparisons between Biden's conduct and Trump's.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, began by outlining some of the underlying facts of Hur's investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents -- probing his determination that Biden shouldn't be charged with "willfully retaining national defense information," even as his report outlined evidence of various instances where he said Biden either knew he had classified materials or discussed having it with his ghostwriter.

"Congressman, part and parcel of a prosecutor's judgment as to whether or not a conviction is the probable outcome of trial is assessing how the evidence identified during the investigation lines up with the elements and what proof can be offered to a jury during a trial," Hur said.

PHOTO: Former special counsel Robert K. Hur prepares to testify to the House Judiciary Committee, Mar. 12, 2024, in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Former special counsel Robert K. Hur prepares to testify to the House Judiciary Committee, Mar. 12, 2024, in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

"Sure, but this well-meaning elderly old man has nothing to do with the underlying elements of the crime?" Armstrong asked.

"It certainly has something to do with the way that a jury is going to perceive and receive and consider and conclude -- make conclusions based on evidence at trial," Hur responded.

Hur swatted away questions from Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the panel, who multiple times looked to have the special counsel comment or compare Biden's handling of documents to Trump's own legal issues.

Hur replied when specifically about allegations against Trump, "I am not intimately familiar with the facts relating to former President Trump."

Mar 12, 10:58 AM

Hur defends his characterization of Biden's memory

In his opening statement, former special counsel Robert Hur defended how he characterized Joe Biden's memory in his report on the president's handling of classified documents released in February.

"My assessment in the report about the relevance of the president's memory was necessary and accurate and fair," Hur said. "I did not sanitize my explanation."

Hur addressed his criticism of Biden's memory in the report head on, saying, "I understood that my explanation about this case had to include rigorous, detailed, and thorough analysis. In other words, I needed to show my work."

PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Hur testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on his probe into President Joe Biden's alleged mishandling of classified materials after serving as vice president, in Washington, Mar. 12, 2024.  (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: Special Counsel Robert Hur testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on his probe into President Joe Biden's alleged mishandling of classified materials after serving as vice president, in Washington, Mar. 12, 2024. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Hur added, "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 went on to argue that purpose of his investigation was to determine whether or not Biden "willfully" retained or disclosed classified information, and that he "could not make that determination without assessing the President's state of mind."

"These are the types of issues prosecutors analyze every day," Hur said. "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."

Mar 12, 11:26 AM

Hearing opens with dueling videos of Biden, Trump

"Did Joe Biden unlawfully retained classified information? The answer? Yes, he did," House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in opening the hearing. "Page one of Mr. Hur's report he says this: 'Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.'"

Yet while it's true that Hur's report stated he found evidence that Biden retained classified information, he stopped short of concluding Biden knowingly violated the law and determined he would not be able to prove Biden's guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jordan then played out video clips of Biden responding to the findings in Hur's report, saying he expects today's hearing will give Hur a chance to respond to Biden's statements that either downplayed Hur's findings or attacked him directly.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the panel, sought to highlight discrepancies in Biden's conduct compared with former President Donald Trump's, saying, "Simply put, President Biden had the mental acuity to navigate this situation. President Trump did not."

PHOTO: Former special counsel Robert K. Hur testifies alongside a video of former President Donald Trump to the House Judiciary Committee, Mar. 12, 2024, in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Former special counsel Robert K. Hur testifies alongside a video of former President Donald Trump to the House Judiciary Committee, Mar. 12, 2024, in Washington. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Nadler then played a lengthy clip reel of Trump's perceived verbal slips on the campaign trail, saying. "That is a man who is incapable of avoiding criminal liability. A man who is wholly unfit for office, and a man who, at the very least, ought to think twice before accusing other of cognitive decline."

At the end of the Trump clip reel, some lawmakers, including some Republicans, were observed snickering at his remarks.

Mar 12, 10:40 AM

Numbers refute Trump's claim that Biden had 'more documents'

Former President Donald Trump is again making claims about President Biden's handling of classified documents while defending his own handling of classified materials. On his social media platform, Trump claimed Biden had "more documents, including classified documents" that were left unsupervised, again saying Biden wasn't covered under the Presidential Records Act.

Trump, however, was found to have roughly 340 documents with classification markings at his Mar-a-Lago estate, while President Biden had 88 documents with classification markings in his home.

Trump also said that the documents he had were secure compared to the Biden documents that Trump said had "ZERO supervision or security." But special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the Trump classified documents probe, has noted in public court filings that "Whatever risks are posed by storing documents in a private garage ... are dwarfed by the risks of storing documents at 'an active social club' with 'hundreds of members" and 'more than 150 full-time, part-time, and temporary employees,' which, between January 2021 and August 2022, 'hosted more than 150 social events ... that together drew tens of thousands of guests.'"

Hur himself said in his report that, "Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it."

"In contrast, Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview. and in other ways cooperated with the investigation," Hur's report said.

Mar 12, 10:17 AM

Hur arrives at hearing

Former special counsel Robert Hur has arrived at the hearing and is seated in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

There are a handful of protesters in the hearing with what appears to be fake blood on their hands.

One is wearing a shirt that reads, "Congress funds Israel genocide."

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