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Report on Biden’s poor memory was ‘credible and fair’, prosecutor insists as he testifies before Congress

Report on Biden’s poor memory was ‘credible and fair’, prosecutor insists as he testifies before Congress

A US prosecutor who last month sparked a political firestorm with a report saying President Joe Biden had a “poor memory” has defended his assessment before Congress.

Former US Special Counsel Robert Hur on Tuesday testified before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which has been one of the panels conducting an impeachment inquiry into Biden, 81.

He defended last month’s report, saying the assessment was needed for his probe of the president's handling of classified documents.

"My assessment in the report about the relevance of the President's memory was necessary and accurate and fair," Mr Hur said in his opening statement.

"I did not sanitise my explanation. Nor did I disparage the President unfairly. I explained to the Attorney General my decision and the reasons for it. That's what I was required to do.”

Mr Hur, the former top federal prosecutor in Maryland, declined to bring criminal charges against Biden after a months-long investigation into classified documents found at Biden's personal home and former office.

Mr Hur, a Republican, said Mr Biden's memory and state of mind were relevant to his conclusions about whether Mr Biden knowingly retained sensitive information.

The report concluded that "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”.

Robert Hur (Reuters)
Robert Hur (Reuters)

Mr Hur's interview with Mr Biden was conducted last October as Mr Biden grappled with the fallout from Hamas's October 7 assault on Israel.

A transcript of the interview, reviewed by news agency Reuters, showed the president brought up the issue of his memory first.

"I'm a young man, so it's not a problem," Mr Biden said jokingly to Mr Hur when the prosecutor said he'd be asking questions about events that happened years earlier, the transcript reportedly showed.

Reuters reported the transcript also showed Biden gave freewheeling answers to many of Mr Hur's questions, but struggled to recall certain details, including when he left the vice presidency.

Mr Hur appeared before Congress the week after Mr Biden made a fiery State of the Union speech that signaled an aggressive start to the Democratic president's reelection campaign - a rematch with Republican predecessor Donald Trump.

Mr Trump, 77, is facing multiple criminal prosecutions, including one over his own mishandling of classified documents.

Mr Hur's report cited distinctions between the two cases, including alleged acts of obstruction by Mr Trump, but Republican lawmakers accused prosecutors of a double standard.

"Joe Biden broke the law but because he's a forgetful old man who would appear sympathetic to a jury, Mr Hur chose not to bring charges," said Republican Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary committee.

Democrats on the committee cast the report as an "exoneration" of Mr Biden, contrasting the president's cooperation with Mr Hur's probe with Trump's alleged moves to conceal records from investigators.

Some Democrats argued that Mr Hur's assessment of Biden's memory was unnecessary and inappropriate. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, suggested that Mr Hur was aware his analysis would have a "maximal political impact."

"You must have understood the impact of your words," Mr Schiff said, accusing Mr Hur of making a "political choice."

Mr Hur said politics played no part in his report, which drew anger from the White House.

Mr Biden, the oldest person to hold the office of the US president in history, lashed out against the characterisation in public remarks following the report's release, saying his memory was fine, while Vice President Kamala Harris called the report politically motivated.

Mr Hur was appointed as a US attorney by Trump and made special counsel by Biden's Attorney General Merrick Garland after Biden's documents surfaced. His appointment ended on Monday, the department said.