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What Biden told then-special counsel Robert Hur in their 5-hour interview, according to the transcript

Hur testifies about Biden probe in House hearing
Former special counsel Robert Hur testifies before Congress about Biden investigation 03:13

When then-special counsel Robert Hur released his February report on President Biden's handling of classified material, Hur assessed that a jury wouldn't be likely to convict Mr. Biden because he'd be seen as a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory." That single line in the 345-page report delighted Republicans and infuriated the president and his allies, even though Hur cleared the president of criminal wrongdoing.

The transcript of Hur's interview with Mr. Biden last October, reviewed by CBS News, provides a fuller picture of the five-hour conversation between the two and context around some of the statements that appeared in the report. It reflects a professional, polite and occasionally humorous mood in the room. 

Mr. Biden said he was largely unaware of how classified government records from his decades-long career in public office ended up in his homes and private office, according to the transcript. 

In the interview, Hur commended Mr. Biden's "significant cooperation" with the investigation and asked the president for his "best recollection in response" to questions. "I acknowledge that some of the questions we are asking relate to events that happened years ago," Hur said. 

"I'm a young man, so it's not a problem," Mr. Biden joked, according to the transcript.

Hur noted in his report that Mr. Biden, then 80, struggled to recall the date that his son Beau died of brain cancer. This angered the president, and in speaking with the press about Hur's report soon after its release, Mr. Biden said, "How in the hell dare he raise that. Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself it wasn't any of their damn business."

The transcript of Hur's interview with Mr. Biden shows the president unable to identify the precise year — but that he correctly named the month and date.

"What month did Beau die? Oh God — May 30th," Mr. Biden asks the room. 

A White House lawyer responds, "2015."

"Was it 2015 he had died?" the president asks.

An unidentified person in the room replies, "It was May of 2015."

Mr. Biden agrees. "It was 2015," he said.

He also misstates the year former President Donald Trump was elected and questions which year his own vice presidency ended. Mr. Biden is quickly corrected by attorneys in the room. Throughout the interview, Mr. Biden appears to be reaching for words he cannot find. Twice, the phrase "fax machine" eludes him, and he confuses Iraq and Afghanistan for Iran. 

The missteps appear to be common lapses for Mr. Biden who for years has struggled with names and dates in public speaking engagements.

Hur testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and defended his work from criticism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. His role at the Justice Department ended in early February once he filed his report, which determined that "the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." 

Mr. Biden told investigators he was uninvolved with the details and logistics of packing and moving his offices. That work was left almost entirely to staff, he said. 

"I didn't pay any attention to how they packed it up," Mr. Biden told Hur about moving out of the Naval Observatory in early 2017. Mr. Biden added that he didn't "have any idea" which files were in the West Wing office. "I let them decide where things would go."

"My generic problem was there was a lot of stuff," the president said.

Over two days in October last year, Mr. Biden and a team of lawyers sat for the interviews with special counsel Hur and his investigators in the White House Map Room. Hur led the questioning, probing the president on how his vice presidential residence and offices were packed in 2017 and how the material was transported and eventually stored at his homes in Virginia and Delaware.

Documents marked classified were found in Mr. Biden's garage and home office in Wilmington, Delaware. The president said some were dropped in his driveway after he moved out of his Virginia rental home and the Penn Biden Center office space in Washington, D.C. 

Hur asked whether boxes shown in a photo of his garage corresponded to the boxes left in the driveway. 

"I have no goddamn idea," Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden joked with Hur about his habit of tossing decades' worth of papers, photos and memorabilia in filing cabinets and never looking at them again. 

Notebooks containing classified material were stashed haphazardly in his Wilmington home. "I wish I could say I was more organized," Mr. Biden admitted, but said he was unaware they contained anything restricted.

"If I had written notes in my book, they're my notes and my property," Mr. Biden told Hur. "They are mine … and every president before me has done the same exact thing."

The interview, conducted on Oct. 8 and 9, came immediately following the Hamas attack on Israel, which Hur acknowledged. "I know there are a lot of other things in the world going on that demand your attention," Hur said.

Mr. Biden began the second day of the interview with a clarification of his comments from day one: "I didn't keep anything that wasn't — [that] I thought was classified." 

Hur asks Mr. Biden specifically about a statement he made to Mark Zwonitzer, the ghostwriter assisting with his memoir. Investigators recovered a recording of Mr. Biden telling Zwonitzer in 2017, he "just found all the classified stuff downstairs."

Mr. Biden said he had no memory of that comment which was made in reference to a 2009 memo he had written to then-President Barack Obama regarding Afghanistan. An original copy of that memo, which contained classified information, was found in Mr. Biden's garage.

"I had no purpose for [keeping classified documents], and I think it would be inappropriate for me to keep clearly classified documents … I had no authority to have them" after leaving the vice presidency, Mr. Biden said, unaware that he had retained the handwritten memo.

The president, over the course of his interview, also went on lengthy digressions about trips he's taken abroad, a case he handled in private practice when he was just out of law school, electric cars and eulogies he's delivered over the years. They are some of the same stories he tells on the stump. 

During a tale about why he never seriously invested in the stock market as a senator, Mr. Biden replied, "The thing I valued most my whole life — my reputation and integrity."

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