Biden documents hearing: Special counsel defends not charging president, but says he was not exonerated

Ex-special counsel Robert Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee.

Robert Hur, who as special counsel conducted the yearlong probe into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents that ultimately absolved the president of legal culpability, faced questions Tuesday from members of the House Judiciary Committee.

Hur, who was previously nominated by then-President Donald Trump as U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, wrote in his 388-page report published last month that he would not recommend charges against President Biden despite uncovering evidence that Biden "willfully retained" classified materials.

In the course of explaining his rationale for that conclusion, Hur said that a potential jury would likely find Biden to be a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

Hearing ends after nearly five hours of testimony

Committee Chairman Jim Jordan pounded his gavel shortly before 3 p.m. ET, signaling an end to Robert Hur's testimony after nearly five hours at the witness table.

Hur departed the hearing room after withstanding pointed attacks from across the political spectrum: Democrats accused him of including gratuitous language about Biden's mental acuity, while Republicans slammed his decision not to bring criminal charges.

Though Hur at times grew animated as he defended his work, he remained measured and disciplined throughout his testimony.

Hur won't say if Congress should have access to recordings

Former special counsel Robert Hur would not specifically weigh in on whether or not Congress should have access to audio recordings related to his report when pressed by Republican committee Chairman Jim Jordan.

Jordan directly asked Hur: "Is there any reason why you can see why the American people and their representatives in United States Congress should not have access to those tapes?"

But Hur would not say either way, and instead responded by saying that his report did take into account the audio recordings. It was unclear which recordings Hur was referencing; given the way Jordan asked the question, it could have been regarding audio of Biden's interview with Hur or audio of Biden's conversations with his ghostwriter.

"Chairman, what I can tell you is that my assessment that went into my conclusions that I described, my report was based not solely on the transcript, it was based on all of the evidence, including the audio recordings," Hur said.

Jordan then asked Hur again, saying if he thought the audio recordings were "valuable evidence" for his report then "shouldn't the United States Congress have access to that same information?"

"It is not for me to weigh into what information Congress should or should not have" replied Hur, while reiterating that he believed "the audio recordings were part of the evidence, of course, that I considered in coming to my conclusions."

'I did not exonerate him,' Hur says of Biden

In a notable exchange, Hur took issue with Democrats' characterization that his report cleared President Biden of criminal wrongdoing, testifying that he "did not exonerate him."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., questioning Hur about his report, stated that the "lengthy, expensive and independent investigation resulted in a complete exoneration of President Joe Biden."

Hur, looking to correct Jayapal's characterization, responded by saying, "I need to go back and make sure that I take note of a word that you use: Exoneration," he said. "That is not a word I used in the report and not part of my task--"

Jayapal then jumped in and began speaking over Hur, as she tried to argue that Hur's report indeed did "exonerate" Biden.

But Hur again pushed back, quickly replying: "I did not exonerate him, that word does not appear in the report."

Hur says Biden's ghostwriter claim is 'inconsistent' with findings

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., read an excerpt from the press conference that President Biden convened the night Hur's report was made public -- highlighting Biden's claim that he "did not share classified information" with his ghostwriter.

"That's not true, is it, Mr. Hur?" Gaetz asked.

"That is inconsistent with the findings based on the evidence in my report," Hur said.

When Gaetz called it a lie, "as regular people would say," Hur laughed.