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Who is Robert Hur? A look at the special counsel due to testify on Biden classified documents case

By ALANNA DURKIN RICHER and COLLEEN LONG, Associated Press
Published: March 11, 2024, 9:02am

WASHINGTON (AP) — The special counsel who impugned the president’s age and competence in his report on how Joe Biden handled classified documents will himself be up for questioning this week.

Robert Hur is scheduled to testify before a congressional committee on Tuesday as House Republicans try to keep the spotlight on unflattering assessments of Biden.

Some Biden aides and allies have suggested that Hur, a Republican appointed to his role as U.S. attorney by Donald Trump, is a political partisan. Hur’s defenders say he has shown throughout his career that his work is guided by only facts and the law — not politics.

A review of Hur’s professional life shows he’s no stranger to politically charged investigations. He prosecuted former elected officials as Maryland’s chief federal law enforcement officer. And as a Justice Department official, he helped monitor special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A look at Hur’s career and why he’s in the spotlight now:

SPECIAL COUNSEL

Hur determined in a report made public last month that no criminal charges were warranted in the president’s handling of classified documents after he left the vice presidency.

But in explaining how he had arrived at his decision, Hur wrote that Biden would likely present himself to a jury “as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” He suggested Biden could not even remember during questioning when his adult son Beau had died.

Democrats have lashed out at Hur over the remarks about Biden’s age and mental acuity. They argue the digs were unnecessary and could help Republicans trying to unseat Biden in 2024.

Some also suggested Hur was quick to accept the invitation to speak before the House Judiciary Committee. The panel, led by Trump loyalist Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, has spearheaded many of the congressional investigations into the president, including the floundering effort to impeach him.

But Hur’s report also carefully explained how the criminal case accusing Trump of hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort presents far more serious allegations. Hur noted that Biden cooperated with investigators and agreed to searches of his homes. Trump, on the other hand, is accused of not only holding onto sensitive documents, but obstructing justice “by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it,” Hur wrote.

Hur was handpicked to lead the Biden investigation by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who was aware of both Hur’s career history and his political affiliations. Garland has been determined to preside over an apolitical Justice Department as the agency probes not just Biden and Trump, but also Biden’s son Hunter.

“I think Merrick Garland probably recognized that Rob was someone who was a Republican but had a track record of making nonpartisan law enforcement decisions and was respected by people on both sides of the aisle,” said former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was once Hur’s boss.

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Hur held one of the most powerful jobs in the Justice Department during a tumultuous time in the Trump administration, serving as the top aide to Rosenstein, the department’s second-in-command.

As the principal associate deputy attorney general, Hur helped run day-to-day operations of the department in 2017 and early 2018. He also helped Rosenstein stay on top of Mueller’s progress in the Russia investigation. Hur held bi-weekly meetings with the special counsel’s team and reported back to Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general said in an interview.

Rosenstein said he hired Hur because he knew he would maintain a calm and steady demeanor and “approach cases in a nonpartisan way.”

In 2017, Hur joined then-Acting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan at a White House press conference about the violent MS-13 street gang, an appearance that some criticized as violating ethics norms.

Some former Justice Department officials at the time said it was unwise for Hur to discuss law enforcement matters from the briefing room in the White House, saying it could call into question the independence of the department.

MARYLAND U.S. ATTORNEY

Trump nominated Hur in 2017 to take Rosenstein’s old job as Maryland’s U.S. attorney, and Hur was unanimously approved by the Senate the next year.

Hur’s office prosecuted a number of political figures during his tenure, including former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, a Democrat. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges for selling a self-published children’s books to nonprofit organizations to promote her political career.

In another case, Hur’s office prosecuted a Coast Guard lieutenant who was accused of stockpiling weapons and plotting politically motivated killings inspired by a far-right mass murderer. Christopher Hasson was accused of having what appeared to be a hit list naming Democrats, including then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

According to a book published by Manhattan’s former top federal prosecutor, Hur declined to bring a case against former Democratic Secretary of State John Kerry. Former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman wrote in his book “Holding the Line” that Justice Department officials had referred to his office an investigation of Kerry in 2018 after Trump withdrew the U.S. from a nuclear accord with Iran. Kerry helped negotiate the deal during the Obama administration.

After Berman declined to pursue a case, Berman said, the investigation was reassigned to Hur’s office. Berman said he told Hur his reason for declining criminal charges and urged Hur to do the same.

“Hur would come to the same conclusion we did, and the Kerry investigation just quietly died — as it should have,” Berman wrote.

PRIVATE PRACTICE

After leaving the U.S. attorney’s office in 2021, Hur joined the Washington office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm.

Shortly before Garland named him special counsel in January 2023, Hur had been hired to defend the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell in a lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia. The football league and Washington Commanders team were accused of colluding to deceive fans by lying about an inquiry into sexual misconduct and a hostile work environment within the team.

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Hur was also on the legal team for Facebook in a case brought by D.C.’s attorney general. The case sought to punish the social networking company for allowing data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data from as many as 87 million users. The firm, which supported Trump’s 2016 campaign, managed to grab potentially valuable information about U.S. voters off of Facebook profiles.

Hur was the lead author on the brief for Facebook that resulted in the judge dismissing the case last year. The D.C attorney general has appealed that ruling.

Hur was also listed as one of many attorneys for former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones in several lawsuits stemming from a $60 million bribery scheme that centered on securing a legislative bailout for two Ohio nuclear power plants with the help of the then-Ohio House speaker.

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