Legal Clash: President Biden’s Team Challenges Special Counsel’s Report

White House lawyers criticized Hur’s report days before its release

President Joe Biden’s legal team finds itself grappling with the contents and tone of special counsel Robert Hur’s report, according to letters leaked Thursday between Biden’s attorneys and top Justice Department officials.

A significant exchange of letters, as reported by NBC News, unfolded just before the Justice Department made Hur’s report public. In this correspondence, Hur elucidated his choice not to pursue charges against Biden regarding his handling of classified materials post his vice-presidency tenure, despite flagging “serious risks to national security” associated with Biden’s practices.

Initial reports on these letters came from The Washington Post and Politico. However, both the White House and a spokesperson for Biden’s personal attorney, Bob Bauer, opted not to provide comments on the matter.

Biden (Credits: Chicago Tribune)

In a detailed three-page letter dated Feb. 7, Bauer and White House counsel Edward Siskel raised objections to the final draft of Hur’s report. They contended that it “openly, obviously, and blatantly” flouted Justice Department policies and practices, along with the established consensus regarding the confines of special counsel reports.

This letter, directed to Attorney General Merrick Garland during the White House counsel’s scrutiny of the special counsel’s draft for executive privilege issues, argued that past presidents had engaged in similar practices of retaining classified information post-service.

The legal team highlighted that criticizing President Biden for a common practice among predecessors, acknowledged but not investigated by the Justice Department previously, represents a departure from bipartisan consensus regarding report writing functions.

Further, Biden’s legal representatives drew parallels between Hur’s critique of Biden and former FBI Director James Comey’s remarks about Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified material in 2016, which similarly did not lead to charges. They emphasized the impropriety of criticizing uncharged conduct during investigations, citing past instances where such actions were deemed violations of departmental practices.

Moreover, the lawyers took issue with Hur’s comments regarding Biden’s memory, deeming them unwarranted and baseless. They argued that while the Special Counsel could note instances where the President lacked specific recollections, broader assertions about Biden’s memory lapses served no legitimate law enforcement purpose.

The legal team also asserted that Hur omitted crucial context regarding Biden’s interview conducted amid a significant international crisis, suggesting that this undermined the report’s comprehensiveness.

In response, the Justice Department defended Hur’s report, including its references to Biden’s memory, asserting that it adhered to departmental policies and regulations. The Department rejected allegations of improper conduct, maintaining that the report’s language regarding Biden’s state of mind was pertinent to explaining Hur’s conclusions on the handling of classified information.

Additionally, the Justice Department justified the inclusion of certain remarks about uncharged conduct as serving significant law enforcement interests and public disclosure requirements.

The Department also dismissed comparisons to Comey, emphasizing his distinct role from that of a Special Counsel or Department official.

It’s worth noting that Hur is expected to testify before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee in March, with House Republican leaders requesting a full transcript of Biden’s interview with the special counsel to aid their deliberations on potential impeachment articles.

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