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Biden vowed to treat government officials with 'dignity and respect' but slams DOJ for Hur report

"Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," Hur wrote. The White House responded by calling the report "politically motivated."

Published: February 9, 2024 11:00pm

Updated: February 9, 2024 11:36pm

President Joe Biden promised to restore faith in American institutions during his tenure, but a recent report from special counsel Robert Hur tested his patience and sent him and his allies in the White House scrambling to delegitimize the Department of Justice's findings and deride his efforts as a political hitjob.

While president-elect, Biden lamented, that "many of the agencies that are crucial to our security have incurred enormous damage. Many of them have been hollowed out – in personnel, capacity, and in morale... There’s policy processes that have atrophied or have been sidelined to the despair of our alliances."

Ahead of his election, he declared in a 2020 letter to Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., that "[a]s president, I will provide agencies with the funding they need, respect the independence and rely on the expertise of career civil servants, and highlight their work as crucial to our government’s functioning." He further promised to show government officials "the utmost dignity and respect," according to website Government Executive.

In his administration's response to special counsel Robert Hur's recently published report, however, Biden and his staff appear to have taken a different approach. The White House is seething over the report's comments on Biden's poor memory and some personnel are even claiming Hur acted both improperly and with political motivation.

"Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen," Hur's report stated. Hur did not opt to charge Biden, indicating it "would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his eighties — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.'

"Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," he added.

Hur further recalled apparent lapses in Biden's memory during his interview with him, remarks that drew the ire of the White House and caused its personnel to malign his inclusion of those details. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and spokesman Ian Sams all proceeded to rail against Hur, deride the investigation, with the latter two in particular, pointing to political motivations and accusing Hur of acting inappropriately.

Attorney General Merrick Garland named Hur as special counsel in January of 2023.

Biden himself

The president gave a press conference Thursday evening, in which he appeared irate and fumed over Hur's inclusion of his apparent memory lapses.

"He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended ('if it was 2013 - when did I stop being Vice President?'), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began ('in 2009, am I still Vice President?')," Hur wrote in the report. "He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died."

The presser saw Biden make use of expletives in reacting to Hur's comments.

"There's even reference that I don't remember when my son died. How in the Hell dare he raise that. Frankly, when I was asked the question I thought to myself '[w]as it any of their damn business?'" he said. "Let me tell you something, some of you have commented-- I wear since the day he died, every single day the rosary he got from Our Lady of --- every Memorial Day we hold a service remembering him, attending my friends and loved ones. I don't need anyone to remind me when he passed away."

"For any extraneous commentary, they don't know what they're talking about. It has no place in this report," he told reporters.

On Thursday night in a televised speech, Biden defended his mental acuity and went on to refer to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as "the leader of Mexico." Rick Scott, R-Fla., went as far as to say that the cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment against Biden over his metal competency and fitness, specifically his “poor memory.”

Kamala Harris

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris defended Biden, taking a decidedly more pointed line of attack against Hur and his findings.

"The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous," she said. "And so I will say, that when it comes to the role and responsibility of a prosecutor in a situation like that, we should expect, that there would be a higher level of integrity, than what we saw," she said.

Ian Sams

White House Spokesman for Oversight and Investigations Ian Sams similarly criticized what he called "gratuitous and inappropriate criticisms of the president" during a press conference on Friday.

"The special counsel decided that there was no case there," Sams said. "The special counsel's assignment when he was appointed was to determine whether any criminal conduct occurred. He found it didn't. That was the finding. The case is closed."

"The special counsel report goes on at length about the president's unprecedented cooperation in this case," he went on. "The president was managing an intensive international crisis... he answered dozens of follow up questions to the special counsel in writing."

Sams declined to answer a reporter's question about Biden's continued confidence in Attorney General Merrick Garland for appointing Hur. 

Dubious backers for the White House opinion

During the press briefing, Sams attempted to draw support for the White House's assertion that Hur had acted improperly by citing the "assessment of seasoned professional law enforcement officials and prosecutors with deep experience at the Department of Justice." The three officials he listed, however, each have their own histories of malfeasance.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said the report "'contains way too many gratuitous remarks and is flatly inconsistent with longstanding DOJ traditions,'" he said. Eric Holder himself in 2012 was held in contempt of Congress for not cooperating with a House investigation into the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal. The Department of Justice declined to prosecute him.

"The former acting FBI director [Andrew McCabe] said he had overseen many cases like this and 'you have to have explicit evidence of willful retention of these documents and that just is not present in this case," Sams continued. Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe was fired in 2018 for lying during a leak investigation. The DOJ Inspector General in 2018 found that McCabe "lacked candor, including under oath, on multiple occasions in connection with describing his role in connection with a disclosure to the WSJ, and that this conduct violated FBI Offense Codes 2.5 and 2.6."

DOJ IG Michael Horowitz told then-Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman in 2021 that "Mr. McCabe lied both under oath and not under oath on several occasions when he denied at various points certain facts and information, including who was the source of that leak."

Sams continued, saying "[t]he former FBI general counsel [Andrew Weismann], who I'll add was also the lead prosecutor in the special counsel Mueller investigation, said it was 'exactly what you're not supposed to do, which is putting your thumb on the scale that could have political repercussions.'" Weissman has long attracted accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.

The Supreme Court in 2005 unanimously overturned the obstruction of justice conviction for the Arthur Anderson firm he prosecuted, pointing to the judge's inaccurate instructions to jurors asserting they could find the firm guilty without the government proving it knowingly broke the law. Weissman helped to persuade the judge to instruct the jurors in that manner.

"Unfortunately the gratuitous remarks that the former attorney general talked about have naturally caught headlines and all of your attention. They're wrong and they're inaccurate," Sams asserted.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter.

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