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Hur transcript shows nuance of Beau Biden exchange

Hours after special counsel Robert Hur’s Feb. 8 report cleared President Biden of wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents but called into question his memory, the president called a press conference in which he lashed out at Hur for bringing up the death of his son, Beau Biden.

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

But a transcript obtained Tuesday by The Hill paints a more fulsome picture of the exchange between Biden and Hur during an interview last October. The transcript showed it was Biden who first brought up his son. It also showed Biden recalled the exact date of Beau’s death, though aides interjected to note the year it occurred.

During the Oct. 8 interview, Hur asked Biden where he kept papers related to the Penn Biden Center, the Cancer Moonshot, his memoir and other projects after he’d left the White House in 2017.

“Remember, in this time frame, my son is — either been deployed or is dying, and, and so it was — and by the way, there were still a lot of people at the time when I got out of the Senate that were encouraging me to run in this period, except the president. … And, and so what was happening, though — what month did Beau die? Oh, God, May 30,” Biden said, according to the transcript.

An unidentified male in the room chimed in to note it was 2015.

“Was it 2015 he had died?” Biden asked, which an aide confirmed.

“It was 2015,” Biden continued. “And what’s happened in the meantime is that as — and Trump gets elected in November of 2017?”

An unidentified individual in the room corrected Biden to note it was 2016. The president asked why he had 2017 in front of him, at which point White House counsel Ed Siskel clarified that was when Biden had left office as vice president.

“Yeah, OK. But that’s when Trump gets sworn in then, January. … And in 2017, Beau had passed and — this is personal — the genesis of the book and the title, ‘Promise Me, Dad,’ was a — I know you’re all close with your sons and daughters, but Beau was like my right arm and [Hunter] was my left,” Biden said.

Hur offered to take a break, but Biden said he wanted to keep going.

Biden went on to share the conversation with his son in which he urged his father to stay engaged in politics.

“And so at this period of time, I’m trying to figure whether or not, when he passes, what am I going to do other than what I’m already doing,” Biden said. “When am I going to run for the presidency? And in the meantime — I’d stay involved; I’d keep the promise I’d be involved.”

Biden aides largely viewed the exchange in the transcript as vindication, arguing it showed the president was able to recall the specific date his son had died. They also questioned the relevance of the exchange to Hur’s final report about Biden’s handling of classified materials.

“Would also note in this section Hur offers to take a break and it’s Biden who says let’s keep going,” former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Hur and his team interviewed Biden over the course of two days last Oct. 8 and Oct. 9 in immediate aftermath of Hamas attacks against Israel, which spawned another international crisis for the White House.

The special counsel in February released a final report concluding Biden would not face charges for his handling of classified documents. But that conclusion was largely overshadowed by the special counsel writing that prosecutors considered, in part, that a jury would find Biden to be a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

The special counsel at one point in the report wrote that Biden “did not remember when he was vice president,” forgetting when his term ended, and in another instance forgot when his term began. Hur reported Biden did not remember when his son Beau had died.

Democrats blasted Hur’s comments about Biden’s memory as “gratuitous” and outside the bounds of his mandate. Some of those Democrats raised such concerns directly to Hur during the special counsel’s testimony Tuesday in front of the House Judiciary Committee.

“You cannot tell me you’re so naive as to think your words would not have created a political firestorm,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “You understood how they would be manipulated by my colleagues here on the GOP side of the aisle and by President Trump. You understood that, did you not?”

But Hur was adamant that including details about Biden’s recall abilities were critical to presenting a full picture of his decision not to bring charges.

“The need to show my work was especially strong here,” Hur said in his opening statement. “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.”

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