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Isa Soares Tonight

Special Counsel Robert Hur Testifies On Biden Classified Documents Probe; Haiti's Prime Minister Resigns Amid Escalating Violence; IDF: Dual U.S.-Israeli Citizen Itay Chen Killed On October 7; 200-Ton Food-Carrying Ship Now Traveling To Gaza; New $300M Funding For Ukraine Announced By The U.S.; Testimony By Special Counsel Hur Regarding Confidential Documents; Behavior Parallels Between Trump And Biden Criticized By Democrats; Hur's Decision Not To Charge Biden Questioned By Republicans; Facing Criticism From Both Sides, Special Counsel Upholds Conclusions. Aired 2-3p ET

Aired March 12, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Hello, and a very warm welcome, everyone. Tonight, we begin with high drama on Capitol Hill, the House

Judiciary Committee has been grilling as you've been seeing here on CNN, now former special counsel Robert Hur on his investigation into President

Biden's handling of classified documents.

Republicans are demanding to know why her in the end declined to charge the president. Well, Democrats are challenging her decision to deliver what's

become what you say a political bombshell, describing Biden in his report as quote, "a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory".

The hearing is in recess and will resume shortly, of course, we'll bring that to you as it gets underway. I want to welcome in former federal

prosecutor Michael Zeldin, Larry Sabato with us, director of University of Virginia's Center for Politics. Michael, can you hear me? Do we have



SOARES: Oh, we don't have -- do we -- let me just -- I'm being told we don't have you, but I see you nodding. You can hear me, Michael, right?

Fantastic. Let me start with you then, if I can, Michael. The legal aspect of this, I think now that we've been all listening to this, has Robert Hur

in your view, testimony, broken any new ground as to why he declined to recommend charges?

ZELDIN: No, and can you hear me, OK?

SOARES: Yes, I've got you live and clear.

ZELDIN: Wonderful, thank you. So, what he did well today was defend his decision-making around not charging Biden, even though he felt there was

some evidence of willful possession and distribution. What he -- defended himself well by saying is, look, I had to look at the totality of the

evidence before me, including possible defenses that the defendant would raise.

And I believe that I could not obtain a conviction based on it, and that is exactly the DOJ standard. My issue with her was, he wrote in his report if

Biden were charged, he would likely defend himself by saying he's an old man with a bad memory.

Hur doesn't know how Biden would defend himself, and he should have written -- were he to defend himself this way, I would have a problem. That's my

biggest beef with her and his report, he projected how Biden would behave, and I don't think Biden would actually have behaved that way.

We saw him as a fiery man in the State of the Union, I think that's how he would defend himself at trial. So, that's my biggest take-away from this.

SOARES: And we did see -- of course, we did see several Democrats pushing back on that. One said the politicization of that statement. And Larry, if

we focus on the political aspect of this, Republicans, they, for our viewers, just to get some context here, they find Robert Hur's conclusion

on President Biden's memory credible.

But the same time, they are blasting his findings in his decision not to charge him. How are they walking that fine line? How are they threading

that needle? How have they thread that needle so far from what you've heard?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA CENTER FOR POLITICS: Isa, partisans like the ones on the Judiciary Committee, especially on the

Republican side, are not inclined to walk any fine line. They're even back in one case to Hillary Clinton's server and e-mails. The whole point of

this hearing was to give Republican partisans and particularly Trump supporters the opportunity to say when Trump's term comes in court because

his offenses were far more serious, and he has been charged with serious offenses.

Now, they've given them the opportunity to say both sides do it. Biden is just as guilty as Trump. The only reason Trump is on trial is because that

Democratic Justice Department is going after him. That's what this is all about politically, you can argue forever, legally.

And I need to add this, because from a political standpoint, no one is going to convince me that this highly intelligent, able man, Robert Hur,

did not realize the political implications of including his judgment --

SOARES: Yes --

SABATO: That Joe Biden was an elderly man with poor memory. He knew exactly what the public reaction would be and the political reaction would be.


SOARES: On that --


SOARES: Yes --

SABATO: They've got something out of this, that's it.

SOARES: And Robert Hur said, I did not sanitize my explanation nor did I disparage the president unfairly. But U.S. House Democrat, Adam Schiff on

that point, pushed back on this, saying that he couldn't possibly be that ingenuous. I think we have sound from that. Do we have sound from Adam

Schiff? Let's have a listen.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You could have written your report with comments about his specific recollection as to documents or a set of documents. But

you chose a general pejorative reference to the president. You understood when you made that decision, didn't you, Mr. Hur? That you would ignite a

political firestorm with that language. Didn't you?

HUR: Congressman. Politics played no part whatsoever in my investigative steps


SOARES: So, Larry, I mean, several hours of this testimony, do you think that will still be the sentiment being held by being felt by many


SABATO: Certainly not. Look, that statement was incredible. It was not believable. And again, Hur is smart enough to know exactly what those words

would do politically -- oh, I didn't even consider politics, right. Tell us more, tell us more fibs, we are open to them today.

And the Republicans were thrilled. You know, of course, they immediately stretched his sentence about the poor memory and the elderly man into

senile. Now, Hur did fight back and say no, that's not what I meant. But it's the impression left with partisans.

SOARES: Yes --

SABATO: They're the only ones watching these hearings.

SOARES: And Michael, on that point, you know, that Larry was just mentioning, you know, we heard House Republican Matt Gaetz say that her

reply, a quote, "senile cooperator theory" I think were his words to his assessment of President Biden's handling of classified documents. I want

our viewers to listen to what he had to say on that. Have a listen.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): You find in your report that the elements of a federal criminal violation are met, but then you apply this senile

cooperator theory that because Joe Biden cooperated and the elevator didn't go to the top floor, you don't think you'd get a conviction. And I actually

think you get to the right answer in that. I don't think Biden should have been charged, don't think Trump should have been charged.


SOARES: So, does that first of all, from a legal perspective, does this carry any legal significance or even wait here?

ZELDIN: No, well, first, Gaetz, I think is misunderstanding what Hur is saying. Hur is not creating a new senile old man defense. What he's saying

is, in the totality of the evidence presented to me, weighing the evidence versus probable defenses, I could not obtain a conviction in this case.

And the DOJ's standards on charging say, you must as a prosecutor before being in charge, determine that you can obtain a conviction and sustain it

on appeal. He said, I couldn't do that. And that's basic blocking and tackling in this case. And the notion that Gaetz is trying to raise that

this is an apples-to-apples comparison, I think also is undermined by her in the report and in the questioning where he says, look, in the Trump

case, we're not talking about mere possession and sharing.

We're talking about obstruction of justice, acts undertaken by the president after he left office. There's no apples-to-apples here, and that

justifies Trump's decision -- decision to charge Trump by Smith, and my decision not to charge Biden.

SOARES: And Larry, I mean, the strategy from the Democrat side has been in many ways as we have seen for several hours to contrast the Hur report with

Donald Trump's classified documents case. I want -- I think it was Jamie Raskin who spoke about this. I want to play it and we can talk about this.

Have a listen.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Given that this report is so damning in the contrast between Biden and Trump, it is hard for me to see why our

colleagues think that this hearing advances their flailing and embarrassing quest to impeach the president of the United States.

What America sees today is evidence of one president who believes in the rule of law and works to protect it, and one who has nothing but contempt

for the rule of law and acts solely in pursuit of his own constantly multiplying corrupt schemes.


SOARES: How is that strategy from the U.S. House Democrats playing out in the hearing? I mean, how effective has it been in your view, Larry, here?

SABATO: Well, what Raskin says is absolutely correct. And I think he made a good case for it, and some of the other Democrats did too. The problem is

the impression left by this hearing is going to be that Biden and Trump are both sides equivalent of the same problem.

Utterly untrue, but that's what most people who are paying attention -- and remember there are partisans, there are partisan Democrats, partisan

Republicans. That's what the partisan Republicans want to say and think Biden did the same thing as Trump, and poor Donald Trump, our leader is

being persecuted by the Democratic Justice Department.


It's ridiculous, but ridiculous thing sell in politics, Donald Trump --

SOARES: Yes --

SABATO: Has proved a path.

SOARES: I mean, putting the politicians aside, the American public. Do they see the difference you think, Larry?

SABATO: I don't think the American public even fully understands or even partly understands in many cases. What this is all about, it's not gripping

and it's not scandalous, some of the other things that Trump is involved in, so no, they're not following those -- they -- maybe will read a

headline or listen to one --

SOARES: Yes --

SABATO: Minute new show, that's it.

SOARES: And Michael, I mean, I'm sure lawyers will be listening closely to this hearing, that has been happening now for several hours. We heard --

and sticking to the Democrat, with the Democrats, we also heard the Democrats quoting Reagan in order to defend Biden. Zoe Lofgren, House

Democrat, had this to say on that. Have a listen.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I was surprised to learn that some of the classified documents were actually personal diaries that many executive

officials have taken home with them because it was in their own handwriting notes, what they produced.

And based on the Department of Justice public statements, during the Reagan administration, it is understandable that a person could believe that their

personal diaries that they produced were not to be turned over just as President Reagan did not turn them over.


SOARES: So, why invoke conservative icon Ronald Reagan? What does that do - -

ZELDIN: Well --

SOARES: If anything?

ZELDIN: I think Lofgren makes the strongest point of all the representatives there, which is to say Biden is accused principally of

transferring a handwritten letter about his approach to Afghanistan to his biographer. And that's the big, you know, brouhaha.

What Loftgren is saying is look, this was a hand-written note akin to the diaries of Ronald Reagan. If Ronald Reagan gets to think about this as a

personal diary and DOJ agrees it's not a classified document, then Biden has the same right to do so.

And so, if there's a misunderstanding, if there's some nuanced difference between the Biden letter and the Reagan diary? Well, that's really not the

basis for a criminal prosecution. In fact, when I was an independent counsel, we asked George Herbert Walker Bush in his testimony, what about


He said, once again, let me go check my diaries. He walks out of the room, checks his diaries, comes back and says the answer. He had his diaries too.

So, diaries are a separate special case, and I think Lofgren raised that point effectively.

SOARES: Michael and Larry, I understand that you're with us for the next hour. I appreciate your time and your insight, as soon as of course, as it

gets underway, we'll touch base, but thank you, in the meantime, to you both. Thank you, gentlemen.

I want to bring in CNN's Marshall Cohen who is also been listening in. And Marshall, I wonder how the Biden administration at this juncture is

responding about what we've been hearing from Robert Hur.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Isa, the Biden administration, the White House, they are trying to do two things at the same time. They are

simultaneously championing the parts of this report that were good for Biden, the parts of the report that said that there wasn't enough to charge

him, that there was no proof that he intended to break the law.

At the same time, they're also attacking the parts of the report that are not as helpful. The parts where special counsel Robert Hur talked about

President Biden's ailing memory and his inability to recall key dates and important information. So, they're promoting parts of it, attacking other

parts of it, and basically trying to present the best narrative that they can in this election year.

They're also taking dead aim at the Republicans who are running this hearing. They said that the Republicans have been misleading. They are

lying to the American people and spreading intentional misinformation. That's what the Biden White House has said of the Republicans who are in

charge of this hearing, who are trying to make this a campaign issue, Isa - -

SOARES: Yes --

COHEN: Millions of Americans have shown in polls, including from CNN that Biden's age is at the top of their minds as they prepare to vote this year

and Republicans have used this hearing to try to seize on that.

SOARES: Yes, we're looking at some of the numbers from "ABS News" and Ipsos poll, "too old for another term" as presidents both, 59 percent, only Biden

27 percent, neither, 11 percent and only 3 percent, only Trump.


And I wonder, Marshall, as you've been listening in, I wonder whether we've heard anything in this testimony that is new. I mean, partisan politics,

yes, but is anything that we -- you know, that we wouldn't have heard before?

COHEN: Well, Isa, you know, if the special counsel has his way, you wouldn't learn anything new today. He has been trying as hard as he can to

stick to the four corners of his report, which was 400 pages long. But most Americans don't have time to look at that kind of expansive documents.

So, maybe they did learn something new. But special counsel Hur has been trying to keep it straight, only stick to what is in the report, whether

it's good for Biden, whether it's bad for Biden and just to let the chips fall as they may.

SOARES: Appreciate it, thank you very much. Well, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan just spoke to CNN's Lauren Fox and facts. I want you to listen

to that exchange, have a listen to this.



REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The difference is Joe Biden kept classified information. It's not about I forget how many, like nine different

locations. Because the Penn Biden Center moved like three times in D.C., so three locations there, his garage, his den, his office, upstairs,

downstairs, and then at the University of Delaware, the library and the University of Delaware Biden Center.

So, I mean, it is like nine different places. President Trump's classified documents were kept at his home with Secret Service protection by the way.

FOX: But in the report does point out that Biden turned that information --

JORDAN: That's right --

FOX: Over when he became aware of it --

JORDAN: There's --

FOX: Versus Trump, didn't do that --

JORDAN: What he points out in the report is based on what Jack Smith has said. And we know that, you know, we know Jack Smith and what he's done in

the past. So, we'll see, I do got to get the votes, I apologize.


SOARES: Jim Jordan there speaking to our Lauren Fox. Very much what we've heard from him in the last three hours in during Hur's testimony. What is

clear is that Mr. Hur seems to be a unifier, seems that both sides don't like him for partisan reasons as we have heard. We're going to take a short

break, we'll be back after this.


SOARES: Welcome back, everyone. If you've been watching us closely, you've seen that we've been following the testimony on Capitol Hill where special

counsel Robert Hur is testifying on Joe Biden's classified documents probe. Of course, we'll be monitoring this for any new developments and bring you

more on it later in the show.

But for now, time now for some other key, of course, international stories. I want to go to Haiti because the country's most notorious gang leader says

he will not recognize a government put in place by a transitional council.


His comments come after Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned late last night. Henry pleaded for peace in his resignation, and said he will

stay on until the new government can be formed. But the gang leader, known as "Barbecue" says it's the responsibility of the Haitian people to quote

"choose the leaders who will govern the country.

Patrick Oppmann has been tracking the story and he joins us now from Havana in Cuba. And Patrick, given of course, the gang leader's position here,

something that we have heard throughout, where does this leave then this transitional council now that the PM is stepping down. What's next here


PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it just seems like we're descending further into chaos because of course, pressure has been building

for more than a week now on Ariel Henry ever since those gangs prevented him from returning to his own country.

And the pressure both inside in Haiti and outside of Henry was to essentially step down to make way for a new government. And even though,

that is now happened, it doesn't mean that there's going to be any end the quagmire in Haiti any time soon.


OPPMANN (voice-over): For more than a week, Haiti's marauding gangs prevented Prime Minister Ariel Henry from returning to the country he was

supposed to lead, until finally, Henry reached a breaking point and agreed on Monday night to resign.

ARIEL HENRY, ACTING PRIME MINISTER OF HAITI (through translator): My government will leave immediately after the inauguration of a council. We

will be a caretaker government until they name a prime minister and a new cabinet. Haiti needs peace. Haiti needs stability.

OPPMANN: Henry had traveled from Haiti to Kenya to sign an agreement with the government there to provide troops to fight the out-of-control gangs,

terrorizing his beleaguered nation. Once he left, the gangs united to further batter the Haitian government in a series of coordinated attacks.

The latest explosion of violence leading to a massive jail-break that freed thousands of prisoners, closed the country's main airport indefinitely,

enforced the United States and other embassies to evacuate diplomats by helicopter. The news of Henry's impending resignation is not placating the

leaders of gangs though, who have threatened an all-out civil war.

JIMMY CHERIZIER, HAITIAN GANG LEADER (through translator): We in Vivasa(ph), are demanding that the Haitian people must choose the person

who will lead the country.

OPPMANN: But it is the Haitian people who are suffering the most. More than 300,000 have been displaced by the violence, the U.N. says. Gangs block

access to food, water, and hospitals using hunger and sexual violence as weapons of war. Bodies of their victims lie uncollected on streets.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken met with regional leaders in Jamaica and announced an increase in U.S. funding to the

security mission to be led by Kenyan troops.

ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE, UNITED STATES: I'm announcing today that the United States Department of Defense is doubling its approved

support for the mission from $100 million to $200 million. And that brings the total U.S. support to $300 million for this effort.

OPPMANN: Following the announcement that Henry will resign, Kenyan officials now saying a government needs to be in place in Haiti before

their troops can deploy, creating more doubt of when exactly they will have boots on the ground to begin fighting the heavily-armed local gangs.

For too many Haitians living in a country where there is no longer a functioning government, no escape from the violence, it is already too



OPPMANN: And the gangs, of course, have been pushing for Henry's ouster. Now that apparently they have accomplished that, they say they also won't

accept this transitional council, it just makes you think that they prefer a vacuum of power because of course, that allows them to take control, to

operate their illegal businesses.

And quite simply, it appears that they're going to be blocking any kind of government that challenges them from here on out, and that they will remain

the most powerful force in Haiti, at least for the moment.

SOARES: Yes, even though "Barbecue" had said he wanted a seat at the table whenever any sort of political negotiations. It seems that's not happening

right now. Patrick, appreciate it, good to see you. Well, U.S. President Joe Biden says he is devastated to learn of the death of a U.S.-Israeli

dual citizen.

Itay Chen was one of six Americans still thought to be held alive in Gaza by Hamas. He served in the Israeli military and the IDF, now says he was

killed in the October the 7th attacks and his remains were taken into Gaza. Indirect talks is still ongoing, as you know, between Israel and Hamas

aimed of course, at bringing hostages home as well as securing a ceasefire.

Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokesman gave CNN an update on those negotiations today. Have a listen to what he said.



MAJED AL ANSARI, SPOKESPERSON, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, QATAR: We are right now engaged in a constructive dialogue between both sides. Situation

on the ground is very much difficult, and we are nowhere near ideal at the moment.

However, we are working day and night to make sure that we have the right ideas going across between both sides. And there are those including

Netanyahu who has the key to securing a deal right now. We urge them to consider doing a deal right now, because every day that goes by is risking

the life of the hostages, is risking the life of civilians in Gaza, and it's not in anybody's interest especially the people of Israel and security

of Israel for this war to continue.


SOARES: Well, meantime, a charity ship carrying 200 tons of food is now sailing toward Gaza, where many people, of course, are on the brink of

starvation. World Central Kitchen says it will distribute the food when it arrives. The ship left early on Tuesday morning and is expected to reach

Gaza in about two-and-a-half days or so.

The U.N.'s humanitarian agency says the aid is highly appreciated, but it is not a substitute for urgently-needed deliveries, of course, by now,

which is something that we've heard here from various NGOs, various charities on this show. I want to bring in Jeremy Diamond for more, and

he's joining us from Israel this evening.

And Jeremy, let's start off with what we've heard in the last four or five hours. What are you learning this evening about Itay Chen's death here?

What reaction are you hearing from the family and of course, from the Netanyahu government?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, a heartbreaking moment for this family. Itay Chen was 19 years old, he was an

Israeli soldier serving on the border with Gaza when apparently he was killed by Hamas and his body was taken captive and brought into the Gaza


But for months, his family believed that he was alive, that he was one of the hundreds of kidnapped Israelis who were taken on October 7th, and now

after months of trying to fight for his release, they've learned that he was in fact killed according to the Israeli military.

He was one of six American citizens, he was dual Israeli-American citizen, he was one of six American citizens believed to be held alive by Hamas

inside of Gaza. Now, there are only five believed to be held alive, three other dead Americans, their bodies are also being held by Hamas right now.

I have actually spoken with Itay's mother, Hagit, we were on a flight together to The Hague, Netherlands, where she was with a group of about 100

hostage families trying to file a complaint against the leaders of Hamas with the International Criminal Court.

And she told me at the time that she was struggling to breathe, that it was difficult for her to go day-by-day continuing this fight. But that, one of

the things that kept her going was her dreams that her son would be released, saying that she envisioned him in a Red Cross van in her dreams,

waving at her, saying I'm OK, why are you worried so much? I'm OK. And obviously, today, those dreams very much dashed.

SOARES: It's really heartbreaking for that family. Jeremy, appreciate it, thank you very much. And speaking of heartbreaking, also the situation, the

humanitarian situation on the ground in the Gaza Strip, our Nada Bashir brings us this report on the charity ship that we mentioned, carrying 200

tons of food now sailing we've been told towards Gaza. Have a look at this.


NADA BASHIR, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): On its way at last. The Open Arms, normally, a search and rescue vessel setting sail from Larnaca in Cyprus

with nearly 200 tons of aid in tow, rice, flour and canned goods, enough for 500,000 meals according to World Central Kitchen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the first time happening in many years. And that means that we are working with different actors, different governments,

different entities to make this possible.

BASHIR: And this is where it's going, a makeshift pier in Gaza still under construction. This in addition to a temporary pier to be established by the

U.S. military on Gaza's coast. World Central Kitchen says it plans to distribute the food in Gaza, where a quarter of Palestinians are on the

brink of famine, according to the U.N.

ANTONIO GUTERRES, SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: My strongest appeal today is to honor the spirit of Ramadan by silencing the guns and removing

all obstacles to ensure the delivery of life-saving aid at the speed and massive scale required.

BASHIR: Any form of celebration during this holy month is at best muted. With little food for Palestinians to break their fast at sunset.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We decided to come and break our fast here in our home, which was struck. Despite the destruction and the

rubble, we bought our food and cooked on firewood.

Open Arms will be one of the first ships to enter the Strip in years. Ever since Israel implemented a Naval blockade on the territory in 2007, aid

trucks which on average crossed at around 500 a day before the war began now pile up at the Rafah Border Crossing in Egypt. Only a fraction actually

make it across the border every day.


Governments and other aid agencies have also taken to airdrops, though this option has proven both controversial and even risky. Leaving the sea as one

of the last remaining avenues to bring food to those so desperately in need.

Nada Bashir, CNN, London.


SOARES: And we are tracking breaking news for you that's just coming in to CNN. The Biden administration has announced a new package of military aid

to Ukraine worth up to $300 million. This after a foreign aid package stalled in Congress, as you know, and the White House warned there was no

money left.

Well officials say, the new funding became available as a result of savings in weapons contracts. The new package includes, as we've been told, much

needed artillery ammunition, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-armor systems, and much more.

But one official -- this is important to state out here, this is not a long-term sustainable solution. Of course, as House Republicans continue,

as you all know, to block and they built in Congress, but I have no doubt, be well received from the Ukrainian side and from President Zelenskyy that

the Biden administration announcing another package of military aid to Ukraine worth up to $300 million after warning for months, as you well

know, as we've been telling you on the show, there was no money left. So, of course, we will stay across this when more developments, we will bring

it to you.

Now, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing is actually just getting started after its recess on Capitol Hill. I want to take you there live.

Let's have a listen.

REP. GLENN IVEY (D-MD): Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did

the opposite. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting

others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it. In contrast, Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department

of Justice consented to the search of multiple locations, including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview, and in other ways cooperated with his

investigation. That's from page 11 of your report?


IVEY: All right. And you still stand by that language?

HUR: I do, Sir.

IVEY: OK. And this is -- you -- this is your report. You're -- you take full responsibility for everything that's in the document?

HUR: I do. I stand by every word in it.

IVEY: All right. All right. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions. One is with respect to the surprising line of questions you got right before we

broke about guardianship which seems to me like a dramatic stretch of the - - anything that was remotely involved in your report. Did you raise any kind of issues about Mr. Biden needing guardianship or anything along those


HUR: Nothing related to guardianship appeared in my report.

IVEY: OK. And so, the -- I guess you made the one point about him being an elderly man with poor memory. But are you saying you -- did you say

anywhere in your report that you thought not only would he be unfit to handle his own finances, but he'd be unfit for public office?

HUR: My report did not include any opinions on those issues.

IVEY: OK. I see my time is exhausted, but thank you again for your testimony. I appreciate your efforts.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Gentleman yields back. Gentleman from Virginia is recognized.

REP. BEN CLINE (R-VA): I yield to the chairman briefly.

JORDAN: I think -- gentleman yield. For you, I would just point out, Mr. Ivey, raised the issue of transcripts. He has complete access to every

transcript that we have done in the congressional investigation. He can go -- he could show up for all the depositions, like, frankly, I show up for

most of those. So, he has complete access to that.

What we don't have is access to the transcripts of all the witnesses. We only have Mr. Biden. And we don't have access to the audio tapes of all the

witnesses which what we're seeing --

IVEY: Will the gentleman yield?

JORDAN: It's not my time. I yield back to the gentleman from Virginia.

IVEY: You're speaking, but it's not your time.

CLINE: It's my time.

JORDAN: He yield it to me.

IVEY: All right.

CLINE: I thank the gentleman.

Special Counsel Hur, thank you for being here. Your story is an impressive one. Your achievements are impressive as well. You've been a prosecutor for

many years, correct?

HUR: Yes, sir.

CLINE: I was not a prosecutor for more than a couple of years, but I still remember my record in jury trials. Do you remember your record?

HUR: It will take me a little time to reconstruct, but I think I could get there.

CLINE: Is it above 500?

HUR: It is above 500, yes, sir.

CLINE: OK. Well, I'm curious because the evidence that you outlined in your report is pretty significant. When it comes to evidence that after his vice

presidency, and I'm reading from your report, Mr. Biden willfully retained marked classified documents about Afghanistan and unmarked classified

handwritten notes in his notebooks, both of which he stored in unsecured places in his home.


Further, you noted that there's evidence that he willfully retained the classified Afghanistan documents, including the Thanksgiving memo, and had

a strong motive to keep such classified documents. You outline what that motive is. Can you tell me what is the motive for keeping the Thanksgiving

Day memo?

HUR: One of the motives that we addressed in the report was that the issue of whether or not a troop surge should be sent to Afghanistan in 2009 was a

hotly contested and debated issue within the Obama administration back in 2009, and one in which Then-Vice President Biden had a significant role and

he felt very strongly about.

CLINE: I'm going to quote from your report, "President Biden believed President Obama's 2009 troop surge was a mistake on par with Vietnam, and

wanted the record to show that he was right about Afghanistan. That his critics were wrong. And that he had opposed President Obama's mistaken

decision forcefully when it was made that his judgment was sound when it mattered most." Does that sound correct?

HUR: That language sounds familiar from the report, yes.

CLINE: OK. That is pretty significant in terms of a motivating factor for retaining those documents, wouldn't you say?

HUR: That would be a factor that a jury would assess in considering whether or not Mr. Biden had criminal intent.

CLINE: And I also know that President Biden was working with a ghostwriter on a book, Mark Zwonitzer, correct?

HUR: Correct.

CLINE: And your investigation concluded when President Biden began work on his memoir, correct? When did -- at what time did your investigation


HUR: With respect to the second book published in 2017, we identified evidence that Mr. Biden began recorded conversations with Mr. Zwonitzer in

2016, before the end of Mr. Biden's vice presidency.

CLINE: And it's your understanding that while Mr. Zwonitzer interviewed President Biden, he read classified information from his notebooks, nearly

verbatim, sometimes for an hour or more at a time, correct?

HUR: Correct.

CLINE: And was Mr. Zwonitzer authorized to receive this classified information?

HUR: He was not.

CLINE: And in fact, in their February 16th meeting, which has been alluded to earlier, isn't it true that President Biden read aloud and nearly

verbatim, classified information regarding the actions and views of U.S. military leaders and the CIA director relating to the foreign country and a

foreign terrorist organization?

HUR: I believe that occurred -- that was captured in a recording later in 2017. I believe in April of 2017, not February.

CLINE: OK. And Mr. Zwonitzer became aware of your special -- your appointment as special counsel, correct?

HUR: At some point Mr. Zwonitzer did become aware of my appointment, yes.

CLINE: And upon learning of the investigation, Mr. Zwonitzer deleted digital audio recordings of his conversations with Mr. Biden during the

writing of the book, "Promise Me, Dad."

HUR: Correct.

CLINE: Did investigate -- and investigators with your office interviewed Mr. Zwonitzer about the deleted recordings, and he admitted that part of

his motivation for deleting this recording was because he was aware there was an investigation, correct?

HUR: Correct.

CLINE: And did this conduct raise concerns with your office?

HUR: It did. We consider it to be significant evidence that we needed to follow up on.

CLINE: Significant evidence. And I would argue that you also had significant evidence surrounding the retention of these documents, the

storage of these documents. And even though there was a bit of a disconnect between what a reasonable juror could conclude, the intent was there, the

motive was there for the book for exoneration. And I would argue that you had enough to move forward. My time has expired. I yield back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gentleman yields back.

JORDAN: Gentlelady from Vermont is recognized for five minutes.

REP. BECCA BALINT (D-VT): Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you, Special Counsel Hur for being here today. I know it's been hours and hours, and I

really appreciate you staying to the bitter end here. And I think it speaks to the possibility and promise afforded by this nation that you, as a child

of immigrants, sit here as Special Counsel. And I, as a child of an immigrant, sit here as a member of Congress. There is a lot that's been

said today, and part of the challenge that I have is trying to translate this for my constituents back home.

And so, I want to start with, sort of, the top line. So, you were tasked with identifying whether criminal conduct occurred regarding classified

documents. And after over a year of investigation, including 150 witness interviews and over 7 million documents reviewed, you wrote in the first

sentences of the executive summary, "We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter. We would reach the same conclusion even if

Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president." Were those, were those your words?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Thank you.


So, let's get into it. Mr. Hur, at any time did DOG -- DOJ leadership or the attorney general attempt to influence the outcome of your


HUR: No.

BALINT: Do you believe it's important that the special counsel investigations or any DOJ investigation be impartial and free of influence

from political actors?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Do you believe you were independent and thorough in your report?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Do you believe -- do you think it's true that you received no pressure from Attorney General Garland in this matter?

HUR: That's correct. Is it true that you had all of the resources that you needed enabled for you to conduct your interviews, to conduct your

investigation, and to complete your report?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Is it true that you recommended that the Attorney General decline to charge President Biden?

HUR: I submitted a report to the Attorney General explaining my decision that criminal charges were not warranted in this matter.

BALINT: Right. So, you said on page one of the report, "We conclude that the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable

doubt." Is it true that your report ultimately concluded that the evidence did not support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that President Biden

willfully retained classified materials?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Is it true that President Biden cooperated with your investigation?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Is it true that President Biden sat for an interview with you the day after the October 7th attacks in Israel in the midst of an

international crisis?

HUR: He sat for interviews over two days, October 8th and October 9th.

BALINT: Thank you. Is it true that the -- that President Biden allowed the FBI to conduct thorough searches of his home and his beach house?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Is it true that your report found multiple possible innocent explanations as to why the classified documents ended up where they did?

HUR: As part of our analysis, we walked through a number of different explanations that defense counsel would present, could present at trial if

this case were charged.

BALINT: And as you said on page six of your report, "In addition to this shortage of evidence, there are other innocent explanations for the

documents that we cannot refute." Your report reads --

HUR: I see that language, yes.

BALINT: Thank you. Your report reads, with one exception, there is no record of the Department of Justice prosecuting a former president or vice

president for mishandling classified documents from his own administration. The exception is Former President Trump. Am I reading that correctly?

HUR: Yes.

BALINT: Is it true or is it correct that your report recommends no charges and that you would be -- that would be the case even if he were not a

sitting president?

HUR: Correct.

BALINT: So, what we've had today is hour after hour after hour of trying to distract us from the clear statements that come through this report. And

you yourself have said multiple times today, there was no attempt to obstruct justice by the president, by the Department of Justice, by the

Attorney General. That you had all the resources that you needed to conduct a fair and thorough investigation and report. And that what you concluded

was in fact the evidence was not sufficient to bring charges against the President for mishandling documents.

I thank you for being here today. I yield back.

JORDAN: The gentlelady yields back. The gentleman from South Carolina is recognized.

REP. RUSSELL FRY (R-SC): Mr. Chairman, I yield to you. Such time as you may consume, sir.

JORDAN: I appreciate the gentleman yielding.

Mr. Hur, why did the White House go -- why did the White House lawyers go look in the first place? My understanding is they went to the Penn Biden

Center. Why did they go look in the first place?

HUR: My understanding --

JORDAN: I mean, look, for classified -- you know, mishandling classified -- look for classified documents. Why did they do it?

HUR: What we identified through our investigation was that at a certain date, members of the President's staff went to the Pi -- Penn Biden Center

in order to get a better handle on what the information, what kinds of evidence and, what kinds of materials were at the Penn Biden Center.

JORDAN: Were they specifically looking for potential documents that were classified, or was it a broader initial look?

HUR: My understanding is that it was a broader initial look. And I'm looking at chapter 14, page 257 of my report about a visit --

JORDAN: Right.

HUR: -- in March 2021 --

JORDAN: Right.

HUR: --- to Penn Biden Center.

JORDAN: OK. In March?

HUR: In March of 2021.

JORDAN: Was this after the Justice Department began their investigation into President Trump?

HUR: I confess I don't have the date of the beginning of the investigation under President Trump at hand, Chairman.

JORDAN: I believe it was the same month. I mean, I believe it was after. So, I was just curious to know. Now, one other thing I think is important

for folks to understand is President Biden had this information everywhere. I mean, you got that -- you said they initially went to the Penn Biden

Center. Which location was it at, do you remember when they initially -- did their look, was it at the transition office?


Was it at the temporary Penn Biden Center in Chinatown or was that it at its current location where the Penn Biden Center currently sits here in --

or, you know, final location, I guess, in D. C.? Do you remember?

HUR: I believe the visit that I referenced in March 2021 that's described on page 257 was to the Penn Ben -- Penn Biden Center's permanent and

current location.

JORDAN: Permanent and current. So, there were three places. Those three places, classified information were -- was at, fair to say?

HUR: That's correct. The initial transition office immediately after the end of the vice presidency, the Penn Biden Center's temporary office, and

then the Penn Biden Center's permanent office.

JORDAN: OK. So those -- and then you had the University of Delaware library, the University of Delaware Biden Center, right? So that's five

total. And then you had multiple places in his home.

HUR: Correct.

JORDAN: The garage, the den, the office upstairs and the office downstairs.

HUR: Correct.

JORDAN: So, what is that? That's like nine different places.

HUR: I've lost count, sir., but it sounds --

JORDAN: Yes, exactly.

HUR: -- it sounds like --

JORDAN: It's -- they're -- it's everywhere. And it was documents over a 50- year time frame. And then by comparison, because the Democrats want to keep comparing to President Trump's classified documents, right, is home with

Secret Service protection. I don't know that they're anywhere else, were they?

HUR: I'm not aware of other locations present.

JORDAN: Yes, I think that's an important distinction.

I would yield back to the gentleman from South Carolina. I appreciate him yielding.

FRY: Thank you, Chairman. Briefly, I know we've got two minutes left, but, Mr. Hur, how would you define willful?

HUR: Well, with respect to the intent of willfulness, what a jury has to conclude is that someone knew that their conduct was illegal when they

engaged in that conduct.

FRY: Right. It's intentional, right? It's not by accident, it's not accidental or involuntary.

HUR: Correct.

FRY: OK. So, here's where I disagree with your portion of the report on willful is that you have a gentleman who served 36 years in the Senate.

I've only been here a year, but I understand the importance of handling classified information.

He served eight years as Vice President. In 2010, it came to the attention of the Vice President's staff that classified briefing books had not been

returned, even if they were returned, some of the content was missing. The same year, the Executive Secretary raised that nearly 30 of the classified

briefing books from the first six months of 2010 were missing.

In August of that year, Then-Vice President Biden failed to return top secret, sensitive compartment -- compartmented information contents of a

classified briefing book from a trip that he took to the Hamptons. And to date, you were unable to determine if these documents were ever recovered.

Is that correct?

HUR: Correct.

FRY: So, to me, this wasn't -- when does willfulness as a -- when does willfulness factor in? Is it now in his diminished mental capacity, or is

it then when he was serving as Senator and Vice President?

HUR: A jury would be assessing president Biden's mental state and his intent, or whether or not he had willfulness at the time that the conduct

was committed.

FRY: Correct. And I think everyone can kind of plainly see that the transgression or the difference between then-candidate Biden or Vice

President Biden and what is going on now. And so, this is where I go to it, as the chairman talked about it in his opening comments, he had 8 million

reasons to hold these documents. In fact, he disclosed some of this information to his ghostwriter.

And so, I think that there could have been willfulness. And I think, you know, I've got ten seconds left, but look, since 2016, there have been

three candidates to run for president. All three have had allegations of issues surrounding the retention and holding of classified documents. But

Mr. Hur, only one of them has been charged, and that's President Trump. And that's why a lot of people think and view this as a two-tiered system of

justice. Thank you, sir.

JORDAN: Gentleman yields back. The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from -- you have unanimous consent?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): Yes, I'll wait. Let him go ahead.

JORDAN: Gentleman from Colorado, Mr. Buck.

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): Thank you.

Mr. Hur, they say they save the best for last, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity. First of all, what I've observed in this hearing is that

one side thinks you're trying to get President Trump elected and the other side thinks you're trying to get President Biden elected.

I served as a prosecutor for 25 years. I know that you're going to take grief from both sides. You must be doing a great job in your report and

during your investigation if you have convinced both sides that you are somewhere in the middle.

I commend you for your background. I would have loved to have met Chief Justice Rehnquist. What a hero to conservatives and, really, Americans, and

that must have been a great opportunity for you. But when both sides attack you, my admonition is welcome to Congress.


How many -- I do have a question, and it goes along the lines of what Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Fry were asking you earlier. I'm really confused about

willfulness and your view of willfulness. It's clear to me that at the time Vice President Biden knew he had classified documents, he told his -- after

he left the vice presidency, he told his biographer, ghostwriter, those classified documents are in the basement.

So, he had the mental state that he had classified documents. He also knew that his basement was not a skiff. It is not a secure area. And so, at the

point -- if at that point in time, he said, oh my gosh, I've got to call the archivist. I've got to call Secret Service somebody and get these

documents taken away. Perhaps he has this defense of acting as quickly as he knew about the documents.

But I don't see where the willfulness is missing when he had those two. The element is pretty clear. He possessed classified documents. He held them in

a non-secure area, and he did so knowingly. He knew he had classified documents in an unsecure area. What is -- where is the willfulness missing?

HUR: Well, Sir, prosecutor to prosecutor, I certainly agree with you that the evidence in the form of the audio recorded statement where the

president said it was ghostwriter, I just found all the classified stuff downstairs, that is evidence that any prosecutor would present as

significant evidence in a case if this went to trial.

So there -- and reasonable jurors might well infer that President Biden formed criminal intent based on that piece of evidence. But what we did in

our report was to try to walk through exhaustively, you know, you know well as a prosecutor you need to assess with a very cold eye the strengths of

your case and the weaknesses of your case, and try to anticipate arguments that defense counsel might well present at trial.

And what we tried to do in our report would be -- was to walk through potential arguments that would be presented by defense lawyers at the

president's trial. And to determine how, by our judgment, how jurors would receive and perceive the evidence presented. Including, including but not

limited to, evidence relating to the president's memory gaps that were in various pieces of evidence that we assessed.

BUCK: So, how do you overcome that recording where he says, I've got classified documents. He's 30 years in the Senate or whatever it is. He

obviously knows how he has to treat classified documents. I've got classified documents in the basement. What is the defense to that? That it

was a made-up recording? That it wasn't his voice? That everyone was wrong? How do you defend that particular fact, as well as -- I did a lot of tax

cases, you had to prove a pattern of conduct. And in this case, he had a lot of documents in a lot of places. How do you overcome those things?

HUR: Yes, Congressman. So, we walked through a number of different evidentiary gaps that reasonable jurors might focus on, as well as a number

of different defense arguments that the President's defense lawyers could present in -- could present a trial.

The first is, a theory or an argument to the jury that the President, yes, he did say to his ghostwriter, I just found all the classified stuff

downstairs. But then, soon thereafter, forgot about the documents. And therefore, it would be difficult to convince a jury that actually he

willfully, he knew that it was illegal to keep the documents, and he continued to do so.

A second argument that we considered is that perhaps these documents never actually were in Virginia, in his private rental home there. Perhaps the

documents were there by virtue of staff or himself having those documents at the Delaware home from the time that he was still vice president all the

way through the time of their being discovered.

And finally, another theory that we walk through in the report is that there were two folders of marked classified documents relating to

Afghanistan found in the box in the President's Delaware garage. One of them contained national defense information and the other, it would be a

more difficult task to persuade a jury that it did contain national defense information.

So, that argument would be premised on perhaps the president was referring to the one folder that didn't contain national defense information but was

not. It would be difficult for the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the one that did contain national defense


So, I just laid a lot on you there. But we do our best to explain that at some length in the report.

BUCK: Thank you, I yield back.

JORDAN: Gentleman yields back.

LEE: Mr. Chairman.

JORDAN: Gentlelady from Texas recognized.

LEE: I thank you. And there's been a lot of time being shared, Mr. Chairman, I ask your very brief indulgence --

JORDAN: Wait, wait, wait, wait. You got a unanimous consent or are you asking a question?

LEE: Your brief indulgence and unanimous consent to question.

JORDAN: No, no, no, no. You can do a unanimous consent request, but you don't get to get another round. Someone comes to yield you time, but I

don't think they can do that because everyone on the Democrat side has taken their time. And I --

LEE: How did you --

JORDAN: -- you know, that I appreciate the gentlelady from Texas --

LEE: -- how did you count them down?

JORDAN: -- but you don't get to go two rounds.


LEE: I'm not trying to go two rounds, but let me --

JORDAN: You got a unanimous consent request you want in the record, state so. If not, then we're --

LEE: I'm -- I am getting ready --

JORDAN: -- closing your turn.

LEE: -- to do the unanimous consent request, hoping that someone would come to the door. I ask unanimous consent.

JORDAN: It could only be a Republican because all the Democrats have spoken.

LEE: I ask unanimous consent that we add to the record as stated from page one of the executive summary, we conclude that no criminal charges are

warranted in this matter. We would reach the same conclusion even if the Department of Justice --

JORDAN: Objection.

LEE: -- policy did not foreclose --

JORDAN: I think the Committee knows what's in the report.

LEE: -- no charges against the --

JORDAN: That's the report in --

LEE: I ask unanimous consent that that sentence be put in. And secondarily, I ask unanimous consent in a reference --

JORDAN: Unanimous consent to add something to the record that's already in the record. God bless you. We'll do it.

LEE: Thank you. And I add -- with the emphasis of Sheila Jackson Lee does not have. And I particularly ask that this be added to the record that Mr.

Hur stated that Biden couldn't recall when his son Beau died. I add the unanimous consent out of an article in "Politico" and indicate that there

was no mercy given to Mr. Biden and no mercy given to him in the decision of this report.

JORDAN: Without of objection, so entered.

Mr. Hur, even though there wasn't a question there, do you want to respond to any of that?

HUR: No, Chairman.

JORDAN: All right.

Mr. Hur, we want to thank you --

LEE: Thank you, I yield back.

JORDAN: -- for being here today. And we wish the best to you and your family. This concludes today's hearing. We thank our witnesses for

appearing before the committee today without objection. All members will have five legislative days to submit additional written questions for the

witness or additional materials for the record. Without objection, the hearing is adjourned.

SOARES: You have been watching Special Counsel Robert Hur testify there to Congress on the Biden classified documents probe. And today, Robert Hur has

explained his decision not to pursue charges after concluding President Biden did mishandle classified materials.

I think Michael Zeldin who's a former U.S. federal prosecutor is still with us. He's been listening in Michael with us, fantastic. I mean, we heard Mr.

Hur there defending his findings for several hours. He has been firm. He has been stoic. And he said his work is -- was thorough, impartial and


What did you make of what we heard today? Did he do a good job, first of all, in defending himself and -- in terms of why he didn't prosecute

President Biden here, Michael?

ZELDIN: Yes, I think he handled himself very well. Very stoically, as you say, and very calculatingly, meaning not political. Just the facts, ma'am,

if you will. I don't think he's convinced anybody to change their mind. The people who came in on one side believe that there's a two-tier system of

justice and that Trump is on the losing end of that. And the others believe that Biden did nothing wrong and the decision not to charge him was proper.

And the statement that he's an old man with a forgetful memory was gratuitous and political.

That -- that's, I think, going to be the bottom line. At the end of this, essentially, it's a wash, politically. And I don't think -- as I say, I

don't think any of the Congresspeople are going to change their minds. And I don't think any of the American public or any of the American public

watching this, going to change their mind either. I think the preconceptions were baked in beforehand.

SOARES: And interesting, you -- when you and I were talking at the top of the hour, I'm sure you heard Larry say that some of his comments in terms

of description of the president is sympathetic while meaning elderly man with a poor memory, he said that was politicized in many ways. Do you think

there were anything -- there was element of he was politically motivated at all?

ZELDIN: I do not. I don't think Hur was politically motivated. I do think though that he made a mistake, which was to say, I anticipate that this is

how Biden would defend himself.


ZELDIN: He doesn't know that. He cannot speculate on how Biden might defend himself. And he could have said the totality of the evidence, taking into

consideration with possible defenses, whatever they may be, would not lead to a conviction and therefore we chose not to bring the charges. I think

that would have been enough. And what we talked about earlier when Adam Schiff said, why didn't you just ask him, do you remember this document? Do

you remember that document? Wouldn't that have been enough? Why did you have to make this one overarching gratuitous statement?

I think that's Hur's Achilles heel in this report. That one statement that was broad and unnecessary.

SOARES: And what happens, I wonder, for our audience right around the world? What happens -- you've got about less than a minute or so, after

this hearing. Is this it, then?

ZELDIN: Pretty much. I think, though, the Republicans are still determined to try to impeach Biden, and maybe there's something here that they will

try to bring on. Remember, they talked about he had an eight -- he had 8 million reasons to retain documents. I think they will try to tie that into

the corruption of Hunter Biden and the whole allegations that Biden was somehow profiting.


ZELDIN: And so, this is another, sort of, thread in the profiting scheme.

SOARES: Michael Zeldin, appreciate you being with us and helping us make sense of what we've just heard.