By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Hur lied

Special counsel Robert Hur. Photo (cc) 2021 by Maryland GovPics.

I’m not sure how else we can characterize what happened. Special counsel Robert Hur all but called President Biden senile recently in describing him as “a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur declined to recommend charges against Biden for keeping classified information in his possession, essentially arguing that it would be cruel to do that to an 81-year-old man in the early stages of dementia. And, of course, the media fell for it.

Now we know that Hur’s report grossly mischaracterized the reality, revealed in the transcripts of Biden’s deposition with prosectors. CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy has a good roundup of the media mea culpas, writing:

The acknowledgement from some, but not all, news outlets on Tuesday about the true nature of Biden’s deposition marked another embarrassing moment for the national press, which has floundered at pivotal moments in the lead up to the crucial 2024 presidential election.

The deposition transcripts not only indicated that Biden appeared fairly sharp during his testimony, joking with investigators and retelling stories with granular detail, but that Hur was misleading in how he presented some of the information included in his report.

It’s like a rerun in reverse from 2019, when then-Attorney General Bill Barr put out a summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties that falsely declared Donald Trump had not obstructed justice. It became clear that’s not what Mueller was saying once his full report came out, but truth, boots, etc.

I especially enjoyed this account of Biden’s deposition, from Charlie Savage’s report Tuesday in The New York Times:

“I don’t remember how a beat-up box got in the garage,” he [Biden] said, speculating that someone packing up must have just tossed stuff into it. He added that he had “no goddamn idea” what was in a tranche of files shipped to his house and “didn’t even bother to go through them.”

Who among us?

Now, it has to be said that it was Attorney General Merrick Garland who named Hur, a one-time Trump appointee, as the special counsel. Given Hur’s predictably mendacious performance, I’d say that chances of Garland’s serving in a second Biden administration, should there be one, are nil. And they should be.

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  1. NahantJim Walsh

    I think you are being unfair to Garland.

    If he judged Hur to be a competent and fair-minded person, capable of doing a good and fair job, my guess is that he was right. Hur was, no doubt, capable of doing so. But, as it turns out, he was also capable of being too clever by half…or so he thought. He was NOT that clever. He was embarrassingly obvious. Had Garland had any inkling of what his behavior would be, he would not have appointed him. The AG’s hope was that a fair-minded professional who happened to be a Republican would be…fair-minded…as was Robert Mueller who, of course, is not beyond criticism, but his work and his motives were entirely professional.

    Hur is at fault. Garland not.

    • Dan Kennedy

      A lot of observers have also argued that Garland has slow-walked the Trump prosecution. I also read a really interesting article recently — I can’t remember where — about Garland’s prosecution of the Oklahoma City bombing. A number of prosecutors around Garland wanted him to go after what seemed to be a pretty extensive conspiracy, but Garland insisted on limiting it to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, apparently because their guilt was the clearest and easiest to prove.

      I suspect that Garland, like James Comer, is so enamored of his own sense of rectitude that he places it above the interests of the country.

  2. Not to mention that he just got off the phone with Netanyahu after the Hamas attack.

    • NahantJim Walsh

      Who got off the phone?

        • NahantJim Walsh

          I’m sorry, Mr. Keough, I’m not sure I understand what you were getting at.

          Were you saying that Mr. Biden was handling a significant crisis in the moment and therefore may not have spent a lot of time memorizing his very dense calendar?

          I would add that while I loved my parents very much…I couldn’t tell you the dates of their deaths. I know how old they were when they died but, the precise dates? No…

          Hur did not to the job he was assigned to do–to present a balanced, non-partisan assessment of the situation. He scuttled the whole thing. Ultimately what he did was shameful. But it might get him a good job at a conservative foundation and a book deal.

          • Peter V Keough

            I’m agreeing with you. I’m pointing out how well Biden responded to the relatively unimportant matter of the interview while dealing with a genuine crisis.

  3. Ben Starr

    As a minimum level of sharpness for a role as vital as President I’d expect the person in the role to recall without any uncertainty the year that their son died.

  4. MJB

    No one with any professional competence in assessing cognitive function has evaluated the President one on one and presented the results to the public. The amount of attention given to this by armchair experts, while unsurprising, reminds me of local talk radio following a Bruins loss.

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