Poised and Precise, Hur Enters Fray Over Special Counsel’s Report on Biden


The former special counsel Robert K. Hur, denounced by Democrats for his unsparing description of President Biden’s memory lapses, had one of his own during his testimony on Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee.

Representative James R. Comer, a Kentucky Republican, made passing reference to Dana A. Remus, a Democratic lawyer who had served as White House counsel under Mr. Biden from January 2021 to July 2022.

Mr. Hur crinkled an eyebrow and corrected him: No, he said, she occupied that post under President Obama.

The misstep was an isolated moment in an otherwise poised and precise appearance by Mr. Hur, 51, who was testifying about his report on the investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents.

Mr. Hur, a Trump-era Justice Department official known among former colleagues for keeping a cool head in high-stress, high-stakes situations, incited a furor after describing the president as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” A transcript of his five-hour interview with Mr. Biden, released just before his appearance, raised questions about that characterization.

Before his work as special counsel, Mr. Hur, a graduate of Stanford Law School who clerked for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, was best known for his 11-month stint as the top aide to the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, in 2017 and 2018. It was a time of extraordinary upheaval, when Mr. Rosenstein oversaw the installment of a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to investigate President Donald J. Trump’s dealings with Russia. Both men lived under the constant threat of being fired by Mr. Trump, who saw the appointment as a personal betrayal.

Mr. Hur, who stepped down as special counsel this week, did little to assuage critics in his appearance before lawmakers. But he pushed back against Democrats, who saw his report as a partisan hit job, and rebuffed Republicans, who criticized him for declining to indict Mr. Biden despite some evidence that the president had willfully retained some classified material.

He defended himself in the unhurried, forceful cadence of a veteran prosecutor addressing a skeptical jury, claiming he had offered an analysis — one that has been disputed — of Mr. Biden’s mental acuity not out of malice but to justify his decision not to bring charges. His tone, flat and matter-of-fact, stood in marked contrast to the raucous atmosphere of the committee.

One frustrated conservative on the committee went so far as to describe Mr. Hur, a registered Republican, as a member of the “Praetorian Guard” protecting the Washington elites, including Mr. Biden.

The hearing room was crammed for Mr. Hur’s testimony, as reporters haggled for seats and a long line grew outside for those who showed up late.

Adding to the tension at the beginning: a noisy protest inside the hearing room by demonstrators calling for Israel to end its war in Gaza. They were quickly removed by the police before the sanctioned shouting, and there would be plenty of it, commenced.

When Mr. Hur arrived, he sat alone in the center of the long witness table. He wore a blue suit with a lavender tie. From the front, facing an array of cameras, he projected an air of unflappability as Democratic and Republican lawmakers began their high-volume denunciations of his work, and each other.

But from the side, it was a different story. Mr. Hur perched tensely on the edge of his upholstered chair, bracing himself for confrontation.

He began his opening remarks, like many forced to face a hostile reckoning in a Capitol Hill committee room, by acknowledging the sacrifice and courage of his family.

Mr. Hur told the story of his parents’ flight, as young children, from the Korean War — the American soldiers who offered food to his starving father, his mother’s escape from the war-torn north, the long and anxious journey to the United States.

“Their lives, and mine, would have been very different were it not for this country,” said Mr. Hur, a barely perceptive quaver in his delivery.

Apart from a few moments of pique, that was as emotional as he got all day.

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