The real ‘Robert Hur report.’ How the Special Counsel report has been misinterpreted

The real ‘Robert Hur report.’ How the Special Counsel report has been misinterpreted

Andrew Weissmann and Ryan Goodman write:

The Special Counsel Robert Hur report has been grossly mischaracterized by the press. The report finds that the evidence of a knowing, willful violation of the criminal laws is wanting. Indeed, the report, on page 6, notes that there are “innocent explanations” that Hur “cannot refute.” That is but one of myriad examples we outline in great detail below of the report repeatedly finding a lack of proof. And those findings mean, in DOJ-speak, there is simply no case. Unrefuted innocent explanations is the sine qua non of not just a case that does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution – it means innocence. Or as former Attorney General Bill Barr and his former boss would have put it, a total vindication (but here, for real).

But even without the prompting of a misleading “summary” by Barr, the press has gotten the lede wrong. This may be because of a poorly worded (we’re being charitable) thesis sentence on page 1 of Hur’s executive summary. Hur writes at the outset: “Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.” You have to wait for the later statements that what the report actually says is there is insufficient evidence of criminality, innocent explanations for the conduct, and affirmative evidence that Biden did not willfully withhold classified documents. Put another way, that same sentence about “our investigation uncovered evidence” could equally apply to Mike Pence, who had classified documents at his home, which is similarly some “evidence” of a crime, but also plainly insufficient to remotely establish criminality.

The press incorrectly and repeatedly blast out that the Hur report found Biden willfully retained classified documents, in other words, that Biden committed a felony; with some in the news media further trumpeting that the Special Counsel decided only as a matter of discretion not to recommend charges. [Continue reading…]

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