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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Chris Strohm

Special counsel Robert Hur takes over probe into Biden's handling of documents

WASHINGTON — Robert Hur, the special counsel overseeing the possible mishandling into whether President Joe Biden broke any laws related to the mishandling of classified documents, officially begins his work Wednesday.

The probe begins as the FBI on Wednesday conducted a search of Biden’s home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Hur was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland last month to investigate how documents with classification markings ended up at the private office and residence of Biden after he served as vice president and as a senator from Delaware.

Hur waited to officially begin until he finished work as a partner at the private law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

“This appointment underscores for the public the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters, and to making decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law,” Garland told reporters last month.

Hur’s work will proceed on a separate but parallel path to that of special counsel Jack Smith, who Garland named to investigate whether former President Donald Trump broke laws and obstructed justice with regard to his handling of classified materials. Smith is also investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Hur was previously appointed by Trump to serve as the U.S. attorney for Maryland, a position he held from 2018 to 2021.

Hur’s appointment represents a political — and potentially legal — controversy for Biden as he considers whether to run again for president, possibly against Trump, who has already declared his candidacy.

Garland signed an order authorizing Hur to conduct an investigation into the “possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records” discovered at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, which Biden used as an office after his vice presidency, and the president’s Wilmington, Delaware, home.

There are several stark differences between the two cases, however. For example, Trump didn’t return his documents after being repeatedly asked by the National Archives to do so, forcing a monthslong standoff that led to a subpoena and Federal Bureau of Investigation search of his Florida resort. Trump has claimed he should be able to keep the materials and they are personal because he declassified them in his thoughts before he left office.

A special counsel’s appointment and operations are governed by a special set of federal regulations.

Although they’re not subject to day-to-day oversight by Garland or any other senior official, they can be disciplined or removed by the attorney general “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause,” including violation of departmental policies. They have authority to make outside hires and detail current Justice Department employees.

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