Harris slams 'politically motivated' report as Biden to name task force to protect classified docs

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks before President Joe Biden appears at an event on the campus of George Mason University in Manassas, Va., Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, to campaign for abortion rights, a top issue for Democrats in the upcoming presidential election. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday slammed the report by a Justice Department special counsel into Joe Biden's mishandling of classified documents that raised questions about the president's memory, calling it “politically motivated” and “gratuitous," as the White House said the president would take steps to safeguard classified materials during presidential transitions.

The report from Robert Hur, the former Maryland U.S. Attorney selected by Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate Biden found evidence that Biden willfully held onto and shared with a ghostwriter highly classified information, but laid out why he did not believe the evidence met the standard for criminal charges, including a high probability that the Justice Department would not be able to prove Biden’s intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

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The White House has said Biden erred in having the documents in his home and Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House counsel's office, said on Friday that Biden would soon name a task force “to ensure that there are better processes in place” to protect classified materials when administrations change.

The Hur report described the 81-year-old Democrat’s memory as “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.” It noted that Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.

Asked whether the White House would release a copy of the transcript of Biden's interview with Hur that could dispute Hur's characterizations, Sams said parts of it were classified, but that if parts of it could be declassified, “we’ll take a look at that and make a determination.”

Taking a question from a reporter at the conclusion of a gun violence prevention event at the White House, Harris said that as a former prosecutor, she considered Hur's comments "gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate.”

She noted that Biden's two-day sit-down with Hur occurred just after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, where more than 1,200 people were killed and about 250 were taken hostage — including many Americans.

“It was an intense moment for the commander in chief of the United States of America," Harris said, saying she spent countless hours with Biden and other officials in the days that followed and he was “on top of it all.”

She added that "the way that the president's demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous.”

Harris concluded saying a special counsel should have a "higher level of integrity than what we saw.”

Her comments came a day after Biden insisted that his "memory is fine." and grew visibly angry at the White House, as he denied forgetting when his son died. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.

Sams suggested that the political environment led Hur, who was appointed as U.S. attorney by former President Donald Trump, to include the comments. “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,” he said.

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