Biden-Hur transcript offers insight into special counsel’s classified documents report

Biden-Hur transcript offers insight into special counsel’s classified documents report

A transcript of special counsel Robert Hur’s two-day interview with President Biden offered a detailed view of the exchanges at the heart of Hur’s report on Biden’s handling of classified materials.

A copy of the transcript, obtained by The Hill ahead of Hur’s testimony on Capitol Hill, made clear that Biden occasionally fumbled over details, including when staff interjected to remind him what year his son died, but he was fully engaged and often joked with the special counsel and his staff throughout the interview.

The transcript offers the fullest picture yet of how Biden handled the interview, which later became fodder for Hur’s report in which he described the president as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

At the outset of the interview, Hur acknowledged that some of the questions asked would be related to events that happened “years ago” and that investigators would ask Biden to answer to the best of his recollection.

“I’m a young man, so it’s not a problem,” Biden quipped.

One of the most notable exchanges to come out of Hur’s final report was when the special counsel wrote that Biden struggled to remember key dates and details, including when his son Beau died.

The transcript shows Biden is the one who first raised the death of his son, and while he recounts the date of Beau Biden’s death — May 30 — two aides interject to note it was in 2015.

“And what’s happened in the meantime is that as — and Trump gets elected in November of 2017?” Biden says, according to the transcript, to which two others note it was 2016.

“16, 2016. All right. So — why do I have 2017 here?” Biden asks, at which point his White House counsel notes that’s when Biden left office as vice president.

“Yeah, OK. But that’s when Trump gets sworn in, January. … And in 2017, Beau had passed and — this is personal,” Biden continues.

In a press conference following the release of the report, Biden expressed particular anger over the special counsel saying he did not remember when his son died.

“How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden said in the February press conference. “Frankly, when I was asked the question I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damn business.”

Other exchanges in the report were less contentious. Biden spoke at length about his Corvette. The president joked that the FBI likely knows the layout of his Wilmington, Del., home better than he does. He quipped that he hoped investigators didn’t find any photos of his wife in a bathing suit.

Hur and his team asked numerous questions about how and where Biden consumed classified information and how his team packed up his things at the end of his term as vice president.

On the second day of the interview, which took place Oct. 9, Biden defended his handling of classified documents emphatically and said that he did not keep classified documents.

“The point is I never kept anything when I wasn’t vice president or president that, in fact, was classified document to be used by me for any reason,” Biden said.

Hur noted that Biden “out of the gate” was trying to distinguish between documents with “red color borders” and “small letter classification markings.” Biden replied that his point was that he returned anything that was clearly marked. He discussed with his personal counsel Bob Bauer if there was an instance when some papers with red markings on it were found, but said he didn’t discover that independently.

Biden was asked about a notebook and had to recall dates.

“The date is 4-20-09. Was I still Vice President? I was, wasn’t I? Yeah,” he said. Biden then recalled the letter he wrote to former President Obama about Afghanistan.

“I do remember — I didn’t read it all, but I do remember this being shown to me,” he said. Bauer added, “this document has lines and the document you reviewed, which was the same one, did not have lines. So that may be the reason why it is not familiar to you.”

He was pressed on why he wrote the memo to Obama at the time and Biden replied, “I’ll tell you why I wrote it. But it’s none of your business why I wrote it.” He added though that he “was trying to change the president’s mind” at the time.

Marc Krickbaum, Hur’s top deputy in the investigation, then questioned if he consciously kept the memo after this term and Biden replied, “I don’t recall whether I — did I have this? Was this in my possession, this memo?” He was told it was and replied he didn’t “recall how it got back in the book” but added, “I guess I wanted to hang onto it just for posterity’s sake.”

Hur declined to bring charges against Biden over his handling of classified documents upon concluding his investigation in February. That fact was largely obscured, however, by the multiple references in his final report to Biden’s memory and struggles to recall certain details.

The White House blasted the report as “gratuitous,” and many Democrats argued Hur had gone outside the bounds of his role in opining on the president’s recall abilities. Republicans quickly seized on the report to argue Biden, who is running for reelection, was unfit for a second term.

Hur is expected to tell the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he felt he had to explain at length the reasoning behind his decision to clear Biden of wrongdoing.

“The need to show my work was especially strong here. 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 wrote in opening remarks obtained by The Hill ahead of his slated appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

Updated at 9:58 a.m.

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