Yesterday, Robert Hur Testified to the House Judiciary Committee

For once and rather than say, Dems blew it again with Republicans; Dems demonstrated they can be crafty too! House Democrats and Joe Biden turned the tables on Republicans and Robert Hur. Professor Heather writes Letters from an American and gives us the rundown on what took place.

New York Times, Washington Post, live news casts, etc. all gave their views prior to the 12th. Hear crickets today.

I do not believe Robert Hur will walk away from this unscathed given his written report to Congress. I italicized what happened during the hearing which is a part of Professor Heather’s dialogue yesterday the 12th.

March 12, 2024 (Tuesday), Letters from an American,

Professor Heather Cox Richardson.

Today, Democratic voters in Georgia gave President Joe Biden enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination for president when the Democratic National Convention is held in August. Republican voters in Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, and Washington gave Trump enough delegates to win the Republican presidential nomination, although former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who dropped out of the race last week, continues to win voters—more than 21% in Washington.

Also today (March 12), Special Counsel Robert Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee about his report on Biden’s handling of classified documents in his possession from his years as vice president.

The hearing appeared to show that the Democrats have finally found a way to defang the tactic Republicans have been using since the 1990s. For decades now, under the guise of the important function of congressional oversight, Republicans have weaponized congressional hearings to smear Democrats in the media.

In this Congress, and especially today, rather than accept the framework the Republicans advance as they try to craft a narrative for right-wing media, Democrats have pushed back with facts and their own story. 

In January 2023, apparently wishing to avoid accusations that the Department of Justice was favoring Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Hur, a partisan Republican whom Trump had appointed U.S. attorney for Maryland, to oversee the investigation into whether Biden had mishandled classified documents.

In his final report, released last month, Hur concluded that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter…even if there was no policy against charging a sitting president.” But then Hur went on for more than 300 pages to offer a picture of Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Notably, Hur reported that Biden did not remember the date of his son Beau Biden’s death.

The media ran with that editorializing rather than the fact that Hur had concluded that criminal charges were not warranted. Stories about Biden’s age swamped the media. Judd Legum of Popular Information  found that in the four days after Hur’s report appeared, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal together published 81 articles about Hur’s assessment of Biden’s memory, suggesting that Biden was sliding into dementia and should not be running for reelection. 

Republicans immediately demanded the transcriptions of Biden’s interviews with Hur and his staff, saying they needed more information for their case for impeaching Biden. Republican House leadership issued a statement that “[a] man too incapable of being held accountable for mishandling classified information is certainly unfit for the Oval Office.”

House Republicans asked Hur to testify before the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Trump loyalist Jim Jordan (R-OH). Hur prepared for his testimony with the help of Trumpworld figures, and he resigned from the Department of Justice effective yesterday, so he appeared before the committee today not as a DOJ employee bound by certain ethical guidelines, but as a private citizen. 

But while Republicans clearly designed their plans for this Congress’s investigations to seed smears of Democrats in the public mind, Democrats have come to hearings exceedingly well prepared to turn the tables back on the Republicans. That strategy was obvious today as it quickly became clear in the hearing that it was not Biden who was on the hot seat.

Hours before the hearing was about to begin, the Department of Justice released a transcript of Biden’s interviews, held in the two days after Hamas attacked Israel as he rushed to respond to that crisis. The transcripts belied Hur’s portrayal of Biden’s answers; among other things, he clearly knew the exact date Beau died. 

The transcript also revealed a pointed contrast between Trump and Biden, with the president telling investigators he didn’t “own a stock or a bond that I’m aware of…. I never wanted to have any argument…. The thing I valued most my whole life, my reputation and integrity. So I never wanted to have anything that someone said, you bought that stock and it went up because you traded. Never did that.” 

Democrats came to the hearing prepared to turn it into a hearing on Trump. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) called out Hur for unprofessional behavior in disparaging the president after finding the matter should be dismissed. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) suggested Hur was angling for an appointment in a second Trump administration and asked him to demonstrate his credibility by pledging that he would not accept such an appointment. Hur declined to do so. 

The hearing was covered live on various television channels, and the Democrats used that media time to show videos of Trump slurring his words, forgetting names, and speaking in word salad, getting their own sound bites to voters. They got Hur to spell out the clear contrast between Trump’s theft of documents and Biden’s cooperation with the government. 

Conservative lawyer George Conway wrote on social media:

“I think Biden’s State of the Union address last week and Hur’s immolation today will go down in political history as Reagan’s ‘I am not going to exploit…my opponent’s youth and inexperience’ moment…only on steroids.”

Conway was referring to Reagan’s response in a 1984 presidential debate to a question about his own age; Reagan’s opponent, Walter Mondale, later said he knew Reagan’s answer was the moment he had lost not only the debate but probably the election. 

In other news today, pressure on House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to bring up the national security supplemental bill that includes aid for Ukraine continues to increase. Although the administration says it has found an additional $300 million from Pentagon cost savings to supply artillery rounds and munitions for Ukraine, national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters:

 “It is nowhere near enough to meet Ukraine’s battlefield needs and it will not prevent Ukraine from running out of ammunition.” 

House Democrats are working to get enough signatures on a discharge petition to force Johnson to bring up a vote on a supplemental bill—which is expected to pass if it makes it to a vote—and today, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also added pressure, encouraging Johnson to bring up the measure that passed the Senate in mid-February. “Allow a vote,” he said. “A vote. Let the House speak.” 

Johnson’s control of the House, such as it is, got a little weaker today as Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) announced he is leaving Congress at the end of next week. “It is the worst year of the nine years and three months that I’ve been in Congress and having talked to former members, it’s the worst year in 40, 50 years to be in Congress,” Buck told CNN’s Dana Bash. “But I’m leaving because I think there’s a job to do out there…. This place has just devolved into this bickering and nonsense and not really doing the job for the American people.”

The Internal Revenue Service today launched a pilot program in 12 states to enable taxpayers to file their federal tax returns directly, for free. The Treasury Department estimates that about one third of all tax returns are simple enough to use this new system and that about 19 million taxpayers could use it this season.