Robert Hur, Special Counsel Who Investigated Biden, to Testify Before Congress


Robert K. Hur will walk into a Capitol Hill hearing room on Tuesday as a uniquely unifying figure in divided Washington — a man disdained by Democrats and Republicans alike.

In February, Mr. Hur, the special counsel who investigated President Biden, concluded a yearlong investigation into Mr. Biden’s retention of sensitive government documents by finding that the president should face no criminal charges.

But Mr. Hur, using language Mr. Biden’s team saw as gratuitous, politically damaging and outside his job description, described the octogenarian president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” likely to be acquitted by any jury.

Mr. Hur, 51, will face withering questioning from both parties when he testifies before the House Judiciary Committee to explain his exoneration of Mr. Biden and the barbed prose in his 345-page report.

Republicans are likely to pepper him about his interactions with Justice Department officials and his legal justifications for not charging Mr. Biden, despite finding evidence suggesting that he knew some of the material he possessed was secret. Democrats will almost certainly slam him for making broad assertions about Mr. Biden’s memory and try to undermine his authority to make such an assessment.

“Nobody ever said this was going to be easy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, a former deputy attorney general, who tapped Mr. Hur as his top aide during a tumultuous period that included the appointment of the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate his boss at the time, President Donald J. Trump.

“They are going to ask him a lot of hard questions, but I expect him to confine his answers to the four corners of his report and to give truthful answers within that context,” he added.

Mr. Hur will testify as a private citizen, not a Justice Department employee: As of Monday, he had resigned as special counsel and will be represented by a private lawyer, William A. Burck, according to a department spokesman, who did not explain Mr. Hur’s reason for doing so.

Mr. Burck, former deputy counsel in the George W. Bush White House, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The political stakes of Tuesday’s hearing, while still high, will be on display days after Mr. Biden delivered a fiery defense of his presidency during a State of the Union speech that seemed to address some of the concerns about age and mental fitness raised by the special counsel.

“Thirty-two million Americans saw him in command during his State of the Union address,” said Anthony Coley, who was Attorney General Merrick B. Garland’s spokesman when Mr. Hur was appointed in January 2023. “Those people don’t need an interview transcript or testimony from someone they have never heard of to answer a question that Biden dealt with last week.”

It is not unusual for witnesses in federal cases to cite their faulty recollections in interviews with investigators, particularly about events that occurred years earlier. But Mr. Hur included references to Mr. Biden’s memory that did not relate directly to retaining classified documents — including the president’s struggle to recall the year (2015) when his son Beau died.

Mr. Hur, a registered Republican who has steered clear of partisan politics during a two-decade career as a prosecutor, was chosen, in part, because of his reputation for calmly handling the pressure of high-wire investigations and internal department politics.

The Hur report underlines the challenges of deploying special counsels, a move intended to shield prosecutors from political meddling but often resulting in the release of negative information about people who have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Current and former department officials said Mr. Hur’s unvarnished narrative was probably motivated by self-preservation. He needed to justify his decision not to charge Mr. Biden, they said, when the government had indicted Mr. Trump over his handling and retention of government documents — even though the charges against Mr. Trump allege far more serious transgressions.

“If the target of a special counsel investigation has no complaints about the investigation, then it means the investigation is likely a cupcake investigation,” said John P. Fishwick Jr., who served as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia from 2015 to 2017.

“Mr. Hur got the mix just right, as Republicans say he was too soft and the Biden team says Hur took cheap shots,” he said.

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