Robert Hur: Biden 'willfully retained classified materials,' but it is necessary to consider the 'president's state of mind'

The special counsel who investigated the classified files found in the president's private residences testified before the Judiciary Committee.

Special counsel Robert Hur testified this Tuesday, March 12, before the House Judiciary Committee. In his opening statements, he confirmed what he had already stated in his report revealed in February: President Joe Biden "willfully retained classified materials." However, Hur added that the investigation had to take into account President Biden's memory and mental state.

Hur investigated President Biden's mishandling of classified documents. After the investigation, which lasted a year and included a two-day interview with the president himself, the special counsel presented a report concluding that Biden did retain classified material and even disclosed information contained in those documents. However, Hur added that he did not recommend filing charges against the president, making clear that due to the state of Biden's memory, it would be very difficult to prove the case before a jury.

In the 388-page report, Hur described the president as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and said that if charges were filed, prosecutors would face serious problems convincing jurors that the president was a criminal.

The details given by Hur in the report on Biden's memory angered Democrats, who even called into question that the report revealed that the president did not remember the date of his son Beau's death. Meanwhile, Republicans have pushed back against the choice not to indict President Biden even though the special counsel acknowledges that he "willfully retained classified materials."

Biden's diminished memory

Hur said that both the “evidence and the president himself put his memory squarely at issue,” and that Biden claimed he did not remember how the classified documents ended up in his private home and garage. During the long hearing, in which Republicans and Democrats on the committee each had five minutes to ask the special counsel about the matter, Hur repeatedly stated that he had to analyze the evidence that was going to be presented to the jury and that the president's mental state was a matter to consider. He also made it clear that he recommended not pressing charges against the president, but that does not mean he has exonerated him.

". "We identified evidence that the president willfully retained classified materials after the end of his vice presidency, when he was a private citizen," said Hur, who further detailed, "We also identified other recorded conversations during which Mr. Biden read classified information aloud to his ghostwriter."

The special counsel also stated that the investigating team "did not, however, identify evidence that rose to the level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the evidence fell short of that standard, I declined to recommend criminal charges against Mr. Biden." 

'8 million reasons' and other key moments from the hearing

Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, assured that Biden had "8 million reasons" to have withheld those classified documents, which is against the law.

According to Hur's report, the documents could have represented important content for President Biden's book and could have fed his ego. This is what the report says about the matter: “Finally, Mr. Biden had strong motivations to ignore the proper procedures for safeguarding the classified information in his notebooks. He decided months before leaving office to write a book and began meeting with his ghostwriter while still vice president.” The report also indicates that the material "was valuable to him for many reasons, including to help defend his record and buttress his legacy as a world leader.”

For this reason, Rep. Jordan stated, “Joe Biden had 8 million reasons to break the rules. He took classified information and shared it with the guy who was writing the book. He knew the rules but he broke them for $8 million in a book advance.”

During the hearing, Rep. Matt Gaetz affirmed that the special counsel used the theory that Biden is senile to not convict him: “You find in your report that the elements of a federal criminal violation are met, but then you apply this senile cooperator theory, that because Joe Biden cooperated and the elevator didn’t go to the top floor, you didn’t think you could get a conviction,” Gaetz said.

Another key moment occurred during Rep. Tom McClintock's time, who expressed his concern about  the dangerous precedent that could be established with this case. He said it is “frightening” that even when he is found to have deliberately withheld classified documents, charges are not brought against the president because he has a poor memory.

“All I have to do when I’m caught taking home classified materials is say, ‘I’m sorry Mr. Hur, but I’m getting old, my memory’s not so great' ...This is the doctrine you’ve established in our laws now, and it’s frightening.”