Robert Hur says Biden not 'exonerated,' confirms White House tried to change his report

 March 13, 2024

Special Counsel Robert Hur told Congress that he did not exonerate President Biden of wrongdoing, despite declining to bring charges for mishandling classified documents.

Throughout hours of congressional testimony Tuesday, Hur doubled down on the basic conclusions of his report, which blindsided the White House with its description of Biden as an "elderly man with a poor memory."

White House sought "changes"

Hur confirmed that the White House sought to make changes to the report, which he defended as "accurate and fair" as Democrats aired their grievances with his language about Biden's memory, which they called political and unnecessary.

"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," Hur said.

House Oversight ranking member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said Biden "did not seek to redact a single word of Mr. Hur’s report" and claimed Biden showed "complete devotion to the rule of law," despite pressure from Biden's lawyers to make alterations.

“They did request certain edits and changes to the draft report,” Hur said.

"Pride and money"

Despite finding that Biden "willfully" retained documents, Hur declined to file charges because he believed a "reasonable" jury would have doubts about Biden's intent. But he agreed with House Judiciary chairman Jim Jordan (R-Oh.) that Biden was likely motivated by "pride and money" to share classified documents with a ghostwriter who, Hur said, deleted evidence on his computer.

"He slid those files into the recycle bin on his computer," Hur said.

The Special Counsel also said that a "reasonable" juror might have convicted Biden based on the facts of the case.

No "exoneration"

Republicans accused Hur of giving Biden a break because of his age, while Democrats highlighted parts of Hur's report that were favorable to Biden, especially his recommendation of no charges, as they sought to draw a contrast between Biden's conduct and President Trump's.

Biden's defenders have repeatedly said that he was transparent with investigators, while Trump obstructed efforts to retrieve documents stored at Mar-A-Lago. While Hur made similar contrasts in his report, he resisted attempts by Democrats to draw such clear distinctions between Trump and Biden during his testimony Tuesday.

During a testy exchange with Democrat Pramila Jayapal (Ca.), Hur insisted that Biden had not been "exonerated."

“I did not exonerate him and that word does not appear in the report,” Hur said. Despite Hur's rather damning testimony, the White House claimed victory, declaring, "case closed." 

"There is no case here, the president is innocent. And that was the conclusion of this case," spokesman Ian Sams said.

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