WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland kept out of sight — but not out of mind — Friday as the White House attacked his hand-picked special counsel, Robert Hur, for issuing a report that brutally described President Biden as being in mental decline.
Garland, a former federal judge and failed Supreme Court nominee, lauded Hur’s “long and distinguished career” upon picking him last Jan. 12 to probe Biden’s retention of classified documents, and released Hur’s nearly 400-page report in full — without supplemental spin, as past administrations have done to blunt special counsel findings.
Vice President Kamala Harris led the charge, calling Hur “politically motivated” — while White House counsel’s office spokesman Ian Sams said Hur had violated the “norms and policies” of the Justice Department with his assessment of Biden’s cognitive capabilities.
“The gratuitous comments in the report are troubling and they’re inappropriate,” Sams declared at the regular White House briefing.
“You have a situation where former Department of Justice officials are talking about the political repercussions of his actions and that it’s incumbent upon the prosecutor to take great care to follow departmental policy to not criticize un-indicted conduct and behavior, characteristics which we’ve seen in this case.”
Sams contended that Republican claims of a double standard benefiting Democrats, citing the ongoing prosecution of former President Donald Trump for allegedly mishandling documents, may have prompted Hur to write that Biden, 81, was confused during interviews and likely to be acquitted by jurors on the grounds of perceived senility.
“There’s an environment that we are in that generates a ton of pressure because you have congressional Republicans, other Republicans, attacking prosecutors that they don’t like — and it creates a need if you’re going to determine that the charges weren’t filed,” Sams said.
“People are human and they’re thinking through, you know, ‘What do we need to do?’ And, you know, it leaves one to wonder exactly why he included a lot of the criticisms that were in there.”
Hur served as US attorney for Maryland from 2018 to 2021 under former President Donald Trump, though the state’s Democratic two senators advocated for his appointment. Hur is also a close associate of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump frequently attacked throughout his term of office.
Sams pointed reporters to a letter issued by the White House counsel’s office about Hur’s report that mentioned “Department of Justice norms and policies that they see as being violated by some of the comments and remarks made in the report.”
Sams side-stepped a question about Garland’s role in the saga when CNN reporter MJ Lee asked: “What does it say about Merrick Garland’s judgment that he appointed someone who ultimately put out a report that was so egregious, so inappropriate and flouted DOJ regulations and norms?”
“I think the president actually answered this question last night,” Sams replied, adding that the president had “talked about his views on the appointment of the special prosecutor and I don’t have anything beyond what he said.”
Biden said during his fiery Thursday night press appearance that he had supported the appointment of a special counsel, but disagreed with Hur’s assessment of his mental fitness because “my memory is fine.”
Garland’s disappearing act came as Republicans also targeted him for facilitating a pair of prosecutions against Trump, 77, by special counsel Jack Smith while letting Biden off without any charges.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted that Garland must choose between prosecuting Biden or invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office.
“Merrick Garland has a duty to invoke the 25th Amendment to his fellow Cabinet members. Or prosecute Biden. If he won’t prosecute, then invoke the 25th now,” Hawley wrote.
Garland’s decision in August to appoint another special counsel, Delaware US Attorney David Weiss, to prosecute first son Hunter Biden for tax and gun charges — after Hunter walked away from a probation-only plea deal in July — previously strained his relationship with the White House.
The attorney general elevated Weiss after IRS whistleblowers accused the AG of perjuring himself by misrepresenting Weiss’ ability to charge Hunter Biden outside of Delaware. Biden-appointed US attorneys in Los Angeles and Washington later confirmed they refused to partner with Weiss.
The special counsel probes have paralleled House Republicans’ multifaceted impeachment inquiry that’s focused on Biden’s involvement in many of his son and brother’s lucrative foreign business relationships during and immediately after his vice presidency — as well as an alleged Justice Department cover-up to shield Joe and Hunter Biden from investigation.