Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents so enraged the president that he hastily called a 7:45 p.m. press conference Thursday evening to reassure the nation: "I know what the hell I’m doing."
Biden in particular took issue with Hur’s claim that the president appeared "as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory," who could not recall basic details like when he served as vice president, or when his son, Beau, died.
But Hur’s investigation uncovered more about Biden than the mental lapses dominating news coverage. Here are the biggest revelations from Hur’s report.
Biden knew he had classified records at his home as early as February 2017.
Biden said in January 2023 he "immediately" turned over the classified information stored at his Delaware home when the records were discovered in December 2022.
But investigators obtained a recording of a February 2017 conversation in which Biden acknowledged he had "classified stuff" at the Virginia home he rented after leaving office the month prior.
Biden told Mark Zwonitzer, the ghostwriter of his 2017 memoir, Promise Me, Dad, that he "just found all the classified stuff downstairs" concerning President Barack Obama’s 2009 Afghanistan troop surge. Investigators later found classified information related to the surge in the garage of Biden’s Delaware home.
Biden also told Zwonitzer during a recorded conversation that he had resisted turning in some of his notes to the National Archives, which he reviewed in a secure room during in-person visits to the Archives in May and July 2017. Hur said Biden should have known that those same security protocols would have applied to the notes he maintained at his Delaware home, some of which remain classified at the Top Secret level.
Biden knew his ghostwriter wasn’t authorized to receive classified information, but furnished it, anyway.
Biden proposed hiring his ghostwriter, Zwonitzer, as an official historian for his vice presidential office in 2011. Biden knew at the time that Zwonitzer did not have a security clearance, and Biden’s counsel wrote in a memo at the time that the author would need to obtain one in order to review "any notes or other material that contained classified information."
The memo dissuaded Biden from hiring Zwonitzer as his historian in 2011. Still, Biden read classified passages from his notes to the ghostwriter nearly verbatim in 2017 as the pair worked on Biden’s memoir.
"Some of this may be classified, so be careful," Biden told Zwonitzer during one recorded conversation. "I’m not sure. It isn’t marked classified, but."
Biden then read nearly verbatim his notes from a 2014 Situation Room meeting that, to this day, remain classified at the Secret level, Hur wrote.
Biden claimed he only called the documents classified "in a generic sense, to refer not to the formal classification of national security information, but to sensitive or private topics to ensure that Mr. Zwonitzer would not write about them."
Hur said the president’s statement was "incredible," noting that Biden had nearly 50 years of experience dealing with classified information and should know better than to use the term "classified" as a euphemism for "private."
Biden preserved his classified notes for personal profit.
Hur reports that as early as July 2010, Biden identified three reasons to retain classified notes: defense of his record, his future presidential aspirations, and his personal profit to finance his retirement.
"One function of Mr. Biden’s notebooks was to provide raw material for his eventual second memoir," Hur wrote in his report. "After leaving office, Mr. Biden kept his notebooks at his homes in Virginia and Delaware and used them to write that book."
Biden’s notes contained classified information about American intelligence and military sources, methods, capabilities, and activities, as well as plans and capabilities of foreign militaries and terrorist organizations. Investigators located eight excerpts from Biden’s notes containing top secret information, seven of which contained information concerning human intelligence sources.
Those notes, Zwonitzer said, "made the book possible" by providing the "emotional arc of the … story," Hur wrote in his report.
Biden and his wife, Jill, earned more than $15.6 million from book deals and speaking fees between 2017 and 2019.
A military detailee expressed concern in 2016 that Biden was mishandling classified notes
Biden’s insistence that he keep his classified notes for use in writing a book "after the [Obama] administration has ended" spooked one military detailee so much that she warned Biden’s notes were "being mishandled" in an October 2016 memo.
The unnamed military detailee said she raised concerns during an Oct. 18, 2016, meeting about Biden’s retention of his classified notes, but was rebuked by the then-vice president’s executive secretary, Kristen Bakotic, who insisted Biden’s notes should be made available to him "without restriction."
"I do not agree with Kristen Bakotic," the military detailee wrote in her memo. "I believe these records are being mishandled; however, Kristen is my superior officer and I am not in a position to challenge her authority. I have requested to not participate in any project or meetings that involve these records."
Biden’s ghostwriter tried to delete incriminating evidence.
Much of Hur’s report is based on recordings between Biden and his ghostwriter, Zwonitzer, as they worked on the president’s 2017 memoir.
But if Zwonitzer had his way, those recordings would have never seen the light of day. The ghostwriter deleted most of the recordings from his laptop after learning of Hur’s appointment, but before being contacted by FBI investigators seeking records related to his work with Biden.
Investigators used forensic tools to recover the deleted recordings.
Zwonitzer said he deleted the recordings after receiving "vague but threatening e-mails from groups hostile to Mr. Biden," which left him concerned that hackers could break into his systems and expose the recordings to the public.
The ghostwriter told investigators he didn’t delete the recordings at Biden’s request, nor to prevent authorities from obtaining them, both of which were key factors in Hur’s decision not to charge Zwonitzer with obstruction.
Biden’s lawyers tried to pressure Hur into rescinding comments on Biden’s mental acuity.
Biden attorneys Richard Sauber and Bob Bauer urged Hur to "revisit" his "inappropriate" description of the president’s memory response to the special counsel’s draft report on Feb 5.
"The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of year’s old events," Biden’s lawyers said. "Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report."
The president’s attorneys contended that Biden’s performance during his interviews with Hur was exemplary, considering he was preoccupied with the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel that occurred the day before.
"We request that you revisit your description of President Biden’s memory and revise them so that they are stated in a manner that is within the bounds of your expertise and remit," they added.
Following the release of Hur’s report, a Biden campaign official attacked the special counsel as a "MAGA guy" who was bitter that he failed to indict the president on criminal charges.