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Robert Hur will testify as private citizen with help from Trumpworld figures

EXCLUSIVE: Ex-Special Counsel arranged to leave Justice Department the day before his appearance with the House Judiciary Committee

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Tuesday 12 March 2024 03:53 GMT
Special Counsel Robert Hur to testify on Biden’s handling of classified documents
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Robert Hur, the former Trump-appointed US Attorney who declined to prosecute President Joe Biden after classified materials were found in his Delaware home and a former office in Washington, DC, will appear before the House Judiciary Committee as a private citizen who has surrounded himself with Republican partisans and notorious figures linked to former president Donald Trump as he prepares for his Tuesday appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.

According to multiple sources familiar with Mr Hur’s plans, the special counsel, who is appearing before the Judiciary Committee at the request of the Republican majority led by Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, has arranged his departure from the Department of Justice to be official as of Monday 11 March, one day before he is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill.

Instead of appearing as a DOJ employee who is bound by the ethical guidelines which govern the behaviour of federal prosecutors, he will appear as a private citizen with no constraints on his testimony.

A Judiciary Committee source said Mr Hur’s departure from government service the day before he testifies is a major red flag for Democrats on the panel.

“That makes it even more problematic from our perspective ... if he was still a federal employee, DOJ would have to approve his testimony and they’d be involved in his appearance tomorrow,” they said.

In addition to the timing of his departure raising alarms among the Judiciary Committee minority, sources have also been alarmed by Mr Hur’s choice of associates during the lead-up to his appearance.

In preparing for the hearing, Mr Hur has turned to William Burck, a veteran Washington lawyer with deep ties to the Republican political establishment to serve as his counsel during his testimony before the committee.

Mr Burck is a former federal prosecutor who served on the team responsible for prosecuting media personality Martha Stewart during his tenure as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York. But he left the department in 2005 for a position in the White House, where he served as a Deputy Counsel to then-president George W Bush, then later as a Special Counsel to Mr Bush and a deputy White House Staff Secretary.

Though he has been in private practice since Mr Bush left office in 2009, Mr Burck has retained ties to the former president and remains well-connected in Republican political circles.

During the DOJ probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election led by former FBI director Robert Mueller, Mr Burck represented three Trump White House officials, Mr Trump’s first White House counsel, Don McGahn, his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his 2016 campaign chairman and White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon. And he has served as a board member of the Fox Corporation, operator of the right-wing, Republican-aligned Fox News Channel, since 2021.

Upon Mr Bush’s departure from the White House he designated Mr Burck as one of his official representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration. He has retained that position to this day, and he gained a measure of notoriety in the role in mid to late 2018, when he was put in charge of reviewing more than 100,000 pages of Bush-era records related to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s work in the Bush White House as a deputy White House counsel.

Mr Burck, as Mr Bush’s representative, advised the Trump White House to invoke executive privilege to prevent Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee from reviewing the documents during Mr Kavanaugh’s confirmation process after Mr Trump nominated him to serve on the Supreme Court.

At the time, he said in a letter explaining the decision that the records which were withheld from the Senate  “reflect deliberations and candid advice concerning the selection and nomination of judicial candidates, the confidentiality of which is critical to any president’s ability to carry out this core constitutional executive function”.

Mr Hur and Mr Burck do not appear to have ever worked together directly, but on Mr Burck’s LinkedIn page, Mr Hur is listed as having endorsed his litigation skills.

A Judiciary Committee source noted that both men have long histories as Republican partisans, citing Mr Hur’s work as Principle Associate Deputy Attorney General at a time when then-Attorney General William Barr was working to minimise political damage to Mr Trump from the report produced by the Mueller investigation and Mr Burck’s efforts to block Senate Democrats from viewing the Bush-era documents related to now-Justice Kavanaugh.

The source told The Independent that Mr Hur’s legal team has not been particularly communicative with the Democratic side of the panel during the run-up to the former special counsel’s testimony.

Hannah Muldavin, a spokesperson for the Congressional Integrity Project, told The Independent in a statement that Mr Hur’s choice of associates marks him as a player on Mr Trump’s team instead of the nonpartisan prosecutor he is supposed to be.

“Despite recommending no criminal charges against Joe Biden, Robert Hur decided to make unnecessary, partisan, political attacks against the President in his report. The partisan political operatives Hur has enlisted to help him prepare for his testimony only underscores how this Trump-appointed, lifelong Republican is yet another player in the MAGA effort to aide Donald Trump and hurt Joe Biden in the 2024 election,” she said.

Another source told The Independent that committee members have taken note of Mr Hur’s team and are expecting him to attempt to inflict as much political harm on Mr Biden as he possibly can.

“Where people like .... Bill Burck come in is to help him weaponise the report he wrote in order to damage the president,” they said.

“Someone like Bob Muller, like probably didn't do a ton of prep, and he certainly didn't do prep with, you know, partisan operatives”.

The person added that committee members expect Mr Hur to “double down” on his descriptions of Mr Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” even though former prosecutors and legal ethics experts have said his comments about Mr Biden violated Justice Department guidelines on disparaging persons who were not to be charged with crimes.

“He's gonna try to defend all that stuff. He's gonna find every opportunity to smear the president as incompetent,” they said.

An earlier version of this story said Mr Hur had been working with former Trump Justice Department official Sarah Isgur to prepare for his appearance. Ms Isgur, now a senior editor for The Dispatch, was approached by Mr Hur but declined to assist him in any way. We regret the error.

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