Joe Biden memory report was a smear, say Democrats

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Mr Hur defended his findings and claimed he had remained impartial during the investigation.
Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Mr Hur defended his findings and claimed he had remained impartial during the investigation - Win McNamee

The special prosecutor who published a bombshell report raising questions about Joe Biden’s memory has denied Democrat accusations that it was a smear, arguing that the “president himself put his memory squarely at issue”.

Robert Hur’s claim that there were “significant limitations” in Mr Biden’s recall created a political storm for the president when it was released on February 5.

His report said Mr Biden was unable to remember when his son died or when he served as vice president, and that he should not be prosecuted for improper storage of classified documents because a jury would find him to be a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.

The claims forced Mr Biden to give an impromptu press conference to insist he was mentally capable, and the report was dismissed by Democrats, who said he had deliberately lied about the president’s memory to discredit him.

Appearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Mr Hur defended his findings and claimed he had remained impartial during the investigation.

The government-appointed prosecutor said his report had given a “thorough evaluation and explanation of the evidence” and that “partisan politics had no place whatsoever in my work”.

“The evidence and the president himself put his memory squarely at issue,” he said.

He repeated his claim that Mr Biden’s memory was “poor”, and that in two interviews conducted last October, he had struggled to recall basic facts about his own life.

Mr Hur was attacked by both Democrats and Republicans on the committee, with Mr Biden’s supporters arguing that the lawyer had been too critical of the president’s memory.

Adam Schiff, a Democrat representative for California, said: “You were not born yesterday, you knew exactly what you were doing. It was a choice. You made a choice. It was a political choice; it was the wrong choice.”

Hank Johnson, another Democrat, said that Mr Hur had “smeared” the president for political gain.

Mr Hur responded that he decided not to “shape [or] sanitise” his report for political purposes and that he had no intention of serving in a Republican administration.

The lawyer was also criticised by Republicans who said that he was wrong not to pursue criminal charges against Mr Biden for improperly keeping classified documents from his time as vice president in his garage.

Matt Gaetz, a House Republican, said Mr Biden was “senile” and had told “lies” about the interviews with Mr Hur’s team, and compared the case to the legal action against Donald Trump over classified documents he allegedly kept from his presidency.

Another said that Mr Hur was part of a “praetorian guard” that protects “the swamp” and “elites”.

The committee session, ostensibly designed to shed light on the investigation into Mr Biden, was used by representatives from both major parties to boost their candidate ahead of November’s election.

However, a transcript of the conversation between Mr Biden and Mr Hur did reveal more detail about Mr Biden’s memory slip-ups, after he claimed they had been invented.

Although it shows the president had a sharp memory of much of his time in office during the interview, his recollection occasionally appeared to fade.

In one part of the transcript, Mr Biden appeared not to remember the details of his son Beau dying of brain cancer in 2015.

In a discussion about the period between 2017 and 2018, the president told Mr Hur: “Remember, in this time frame, my son is - either been deployed or is dying”.

In a separate discussion, he asked: “What month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30…”

His team told him the year that Mr Biden Jr had died, and he responded: “Was it 2015 that he died?”

In Mr Hur’s report last month, he wrote that Mr Biden “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died”.

Mr Biden responded that it had been the lawyer who first raised the issue of his son’s death, telling reporters: “Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business. How in the hell dare he raise that?”

But the transcript showed it was Mr Biden who first mentioned his son’s death, using it as a reason why he may not remember the details of the documents he was storing at the time.

In other sections of the interview, the president forgot the word “fax machine”, and was left grasping for a description of the device that transmits images of documents over phone lines.

He also forgot the name of the National Archives, the federal agency that takes custody of official records.

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