Transcript of Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur shows memory lapses — but also detailed exchanges

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WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Hur’s bombshell report connected President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents concluded that he presented arsenic an “elderly man pinch a mediocre memory” who was incapable to retrieve cardinal dates, including erstwhile he served arsenic vice president and nan twelvemonth his boy died.

Biden, for his part, has lambasted Hur for bringing up nan taxable of Beau Biden’s death, and his lawyers person criticized nan report. 

But nan transcript of Biden’s interview, which was reviewed by NBC News, paints a much nuanced image connected some sides.

Despite nan president’s assertion that Hur brought up his boy Beau’s decease first, nan transcript shows that it was Biden himself who did so, arsenic NBC News has reported. 

Biden, who often appeared to beryllium reasoning retired large successful consequence to circumstantial questions, astatine different points recalls successful item circumstantial events from his clip arsenic vice president. 

Biden said pinch Hur for 3½ hours connected Sunday, Oct. 8, and for 90 much minutes nan adjacent day. The timing was fraught, pinch a awesome world situation having surgery retired connected Oct. 7 erstwhile Hamas attacked Israel. 

Biden faced a barrage of questions from Hur and different national charismatic astir documents he saw arsenic vice president, wherever and really he stored them and why immoderate delicate materials remained successful his possession for much than 5 years aft he near agency arsenic vice president. 

At 1 point, Hur acknowledged that immoderate of nan questions he would inquire would “relate to events that happened years ago.” Biden joked successful response: “I’m a young man, truthful it’s not a problem.”

According to nan reappraisal of nan transcript, Biden astatine times expanded beyond nan constrictive taxable areas of peculiar questions. At 1 point, he described successful vivid item a 2011 sojourn to Mongolia, wherever he displayed unexpected archery skills astatine a taste capacity successful his honor.

Biden besides often said he could not callback a circumstantial incident aliases why, for instance, definite items were packed successful definite ways. And astatine times, he aliases his attorneys challenged nan prosecutors astir nan relevance aliases accuracy of questions they posed, pinch Biden astatine 1 constituent challenging nan logic of 1 of Hur’s lines of questioning. 

The afloat transcript has not been released. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., subpoenaed it and different materials related to nan investigation.

Biden friends judge a afloat reference of nan transcript will only bolster their contention that Hur’s characterization of Biden during nan question and reply was not based successful reality. If anything, they argue, Hur’s at-times meandering questioning whitethorn person contributed to nan confusion.

Hur’s appraisal of Biden’s intelligence fittingness is apt to beryllium beforehand and halfway arsenic Hur makes his first nationalist quality since nan study was released past month, testifying Tuesday earlier Republican-led committees connected Capitol Hill.

In his opening statement, Hur planned to take sides his investigation, nan last study and his curen of Biden’s age.

“I knew that for my determination to beryllium credible, I could not simply denote that I recommended nary criminal charges and time off it astatine that. I needed to explicate why,” Hur planned to say, according to an beforehand transcript of his remarks.

In discussing nan president’s age, Hur will opportunity that his characterization was “necessary and meticulous and fair.”

“What I wrote is what I judge nan grounds shows, and what I expect jurors would comprehend and believe," he will say. "I did not sanitize my explanation. Nor did I disparage nan President unfairly.”

Beau Biden’s decease year

While nan White House welcomed Hur’s determination not to bring criminal charges, officials bitterly protested nan study he submitted to nan Justice Department. Bob Bauer, nan president’s individual attorney, accused Hur of “investigative excess” and said his study “flouts Department regulations and norms.” 

In a missive to Hur earlier nan study was released, Bauer and Richard Sauber, typical counsel to nan president, said that Hur’s comments astir Biden’s representation were not “accurate aliases appropriate” and that they utilized “highly prejudicial connection to picture a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a deficiency of callback of years-old events.”

Speaking to reporters nan nighttime nan study came out, Biden flashed anger astatine Hur’s proposal that he did not recall, “even wrong respective years, erstwhile his boy Beau died.”

“How successful nan hellhole situation he raise that?” Biden said. “I don’t request anyone, I don’t request anyone to punctual maine of erstwhile he passed away.”

Hur’s yearlong probe took him heavy successful nan weeds of possibly nan astir fraught play of Biden’s half-century successful nationalist life. Biden near agency successful 2017, astir 2 years aft he buried his son. Beau Biden’s crab conflict and nan determination Biden would make later not to activity nan presidency successful 2016 began an unpredictable bid of events that would yet return him backmost to nan White House successful 2021.

It was successful trying to stock immoderate of that timeline that Biden, successful his question and reply pinch Hur, made a correction that Hur yet seized connected successful his report’s damning conclusion.

But moreover though Biden said Hur brought up nan taxable of his son’s death, it was, arsenic NBC News has reported, first raised by Biden himself. Roughly midway done nan first time of his interview, Hur asked Biden astir wherever he mightiness person stored documents related to nan activity he was engaged successful aft he near nan vice presidency successful 2017.

“Remember, successful this timeframe, my boy is — either been deployed aliases is dying,” Biden said. 

As he continued reasoning backmost to nan period, he appeared to conflate his information of moving successful nan 2016 election, successful nan months aft Beau Biden died successful 2015, pinch nan early considerations of a 2020 bid aft he near office. 

“Even though I’m astatine Penn,” he said, referring to nan Penn Biden Center, which was established aft he near office, “I hadn’t walked distant from nan thought that I whitethorn tally for agency again.”

Biden past asked what period his boy died earlier quickly stating nan date: May 30. The transcript indicates others coming interjected to specify nan year: 2015. 

“And Trump sewage elected successful November of 2017,” he said, earlier nan transcript indicates different subordinate corrected him to opportunity 2016. 

“Yeah, OK. But that’s erstwhile Trump gets sworn successful then,” he said, earlier he went into a explanation of nan book “Promise Me, Dad,” which he would walk nan adjacent twelvemonth writing, documenting nan years starring up to and pursuing his son’s death.

“This is personal,” he said.

There were different points during nan 2 days of questioning erstwhile Biden appeared to misalign circumstantial events to nan correct years. Discussing nan moving of items successful 2019 from a location he rented successful Virginia to Delaware, he said he needed nan furnishings to group up a location workplace to do media appearances during nan coronavirus pandemic, which began a twelvemonth later.

Zooming out

Those moments are apt to supply fodder for Republicans eager to further governmental attacks connected Biden’s expertise to proceed serving successful office. Tuesday’s proceeding comes conscionable days aft Biden’s capacity successful nan State of nan Union address, which was applauded by chap Democrats. 

A afloat reference of nan much than 250 pages of nan transcripts reveals often mundane and prolonged back-and-forth discussions betwixt Biden and nan prosecutors astir nan ways he reviewed classified documents arsenic vice president and really his belongings were transported among nan White House, his Delaware location and different locations.

The 2 days of questioning had minimal breaks, pinch Biden often rejecting suggestions to region nan proceedings. 

“I’d alternatively conscionable support going. I’ll spell each nighttime if we get this done,” he said toward nan extremity of nan first day’s session.

Biden’s lawyers astatine times interjected erstwhile they took rumor pinch prosecutors’ statement of questioning, pinch Bauer astatine 1 constituent telling Hur he should not “put him successful a position wherever he has to estimate aliases create assumptions, aliases effort to prosecute successful detective work.”

“I deliberation we’re benignant of going down a way present that I find confusing,” Bauer said astatine different point. “They’re evidently trying to found something,” Biden surmised. 

Biden’s career-long activity successful overseas argumentation was evident from commencement to finish. The sessions began pinch Hur acknowledging, without specifying, nan Oct. 7 Hamas onslaught connected Israel.

“I cognize there’s a batch of different things successful nan world going connected that request your attention,” Hur began. “We whitethorn beryllium interrupted by one,” Biden responded, adding he had conscionable spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden astatine different constituent described nan domiciled he played arsenic President Barack Obama’s No. 2.

“I’d beryllium nan feline that’d fundamentally return nan heat, which I was prepared to do because I knew arsenic overmuch arsenic they did,” Biden said, referring to early deliberations successful nan Obama management astir nan early of nan warfare successful Afghanistan. 

He besides noted that immoderate of nan issues he was dealing pinch arsenic vice president proceed today. One importantly redacted portion of nan transcript comes successful nan discourse of Biden’s recalling meetings he held arsenic vice president pinch lawmakers successful relationship pinch nan Iran atomic deal. And discussing items Justice Department officials recovered astir Pope Francis’ sojourn to nan U.S. successful 2015, Biden noted he remains successful touch pinch Francis.

“He’s my ticket,” Biden said, earlier making it clear he was joking. 

Lighter moments

Even amid tense discussions, Biden often recovered ways to lighten nan mood. At respective points he teased investigators astir their various searches of his properties.

“I conscionable dream you didn’t find immoderate risqué pictures of my woman successful a bathing suit, which you astir apt did. She’s beautiful,” Biden said astatine 1 point.

After a prolonged chat of boxes recovered successful Biden’s garage, Hur asked colleagues whether location were immoderate different questions. 

“Yeah. When americium I going to get nan remainder of it cleaned out?” Biden said.

Biden was peculiarly keen astatine 1 constituent to talk his emotion of cars, successful relationship pinch questioning astir boxes recovered adjacent his Corvette. At 1 constituent nan transcript includes “Makes Car Sound” to seizure Biden’s comments. 

Mike Memoli

Mike Memoli is an NBC News correspondent.