Lawmakers set to grill Biden special counsel



Special counsel Robert Hur is set to testify on Capitol Hill this week, roughly one month after he published a controversial report that stopped short of bringing charges against President Biden for “willfully” retaining classified documents, but raised questions about his mental state and memory.

The report sparked outrage on both sides of the aisle: Republicans seized on the description of Biden’s memory, using it as fodder to argue that he should not be re-elected to the White House, while Democrats slammed Hur for writing a “gratuitous” report that, they said, inappropriately commented on the president’s mental state.

Those reactions will collide on Tuesday, when some of Biden’s fiercest critics and most loyal defenders grill Hur during a hearing that will dive into the president’s biggest vulnerability — his age — heading into the November general election.

Also this week, the House will vote on a bipartisan bill that will force ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, to divest from the app or face a ban in the U.S.

And Republicans in both chambers are headed on their annual retreats, as House Republicans look to reset after a chaotic year and the Senate GOP conference prepares for a high-stakes leadership race.

Hur to discuss controversial report before House panel

Robert Hur, the special counsel who investigated Biden’s handling of classified documents, will discuss his report on Capitol Hill this week during a highly anticipated hearing that is sure to focus on the president’s age, which has emerged as his top weak spot ahead of the November presidential election.

Hur is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m.

The hearing comes after Hur released a nearly 400-page report last month that declined to charge Biden for “willfully” retaining classified documents because, he argued, it would be difficult for a jury to convict him because he would likely have presented himself as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Republicans pounced on the body of work, arguing that it is evidence of their claim that Biden is not mentally fit to occupy the White House for another four years. They also criticized Hur for declining to pursue charges because of his concerns over Biden’s memory, juxtaposing it with the charges former President Trump is facing for his retention of classified documents — despite the key differences between the two cases.

“Having a poor memory does not absolve you from violating the Espionage Act. Being old and elderly does not absolve you from violating the Espionage Act,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

Democrats, meanwhile, have denounced Hur for including commentary about Biden’s mental state in his report, and they have argued that the president is up for the job of commander-in-chief. Biden himself told reporters “my memory is fine” during a fiery press conference hours after Hur’s work was released.

That message resurfaced last week after Biden delivered his State of the Union address that, many said, was a strong speech for the president at a crucial moment in the 2024 campaign.

And Democrats once again took aim at Hur.

“President @JoeBiden at SOTU showed in real time that he was sharp, agile and strong. You know who really looks like a fool and a total partisan hack? Dr. Robert Hur,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote on X last week.

Biden’s age has emerged as a key issue in the 2024 presidential election. A New York Times/Siena College poll released earlier this month found that 61 percent of voters who supported the president in 2020 strongly or somewhat agree that he is “just too old” to serve effectively. Of the respondents who said they plan to back Biden in 2024, 59 percent said he is too old to be an effective president.

House to weigh in on TikTok ban

The House this week will vote on a bipartisan bill that could ban the popular app TikTok in the U.S., as lawmakers sound the alarm about China being able to access information about Americans.

The measure — titled the “Protecting Americans From Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” — would require ByteDance, the China-based parent company of TikTok, to divest from the application or face a ban in the U.S.

Consideration of the legislation comes as lawmakers raise national security concerns about whether the Chinese government is able to access data of Americans who use TikTok. The app, for its part, has pushed back on the allegations pertaining to national security.

The effort to ban has sparked intense opposition from the platform and its users. Last week, the platform urged users to call their lawmakers and voice opposition to the bill that could lead to a ban of the app, prompting swarms of calls on Capitol Hill.

The legislation, sponsored by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), advanced out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a unanimous vote last week, tee-ing up a referendum in the full chamber.

The House is scheduled to consider the measure under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that is used for bills that have bipartisan support. The legislation requires a two-thirds vote for passage.

Biden told reporters last week that if Congress passes the TikTok bill, he would sign it.

“If they pass it, I’ll sign it,” he said.

House, Senate Republicans embark on annual retreat

House and Senate Republicans are set to attend their annual retreats this week as the conferences look to reset — and prepare for the future — after a chaotic year on Capitol Hill.

The House GOP retreat — taking place in West Virginia from Wednesday through Friday — comes after a year of intense infighting for the conference, which led to the successful ousting of their Speaker, prompted a number of shutdown showdowns and brought lawmakers to the brink of what would have been the first-ever economic default.

The House GOP conference has also seen its razor-thin majority slim even further over the past year, which has made it difficult for Republicans to pass various pieces of legislation on the floor.

This week’s retreat will be the first for House Republicans with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) at the helm of the conference.

The Senate GOP retreat, meanwhile, comes as Republicans are getting ready to select the next leader of their conference for the first time in nearly two decades, as Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) prepares to step down from the top job after a long tenure in the position.

Senate GOP Whip John Thune (S.D.) and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who previously served as whip, are both in the race to succeed McConnell. Some other Republicans, however, are mulling runs.

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