Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday praised Robert Hur, the special counsel he appointed to investigate President Joe Biden’s handling of classified records, as an "even-handed" prosecutor with a "long and distinguished career." But a top Republican who dealt with Hur during his last stint at the Justice Department has a much less glowing opinion.
In 2018, Hur was part of the Justice Department team that worked to stifle a House Republican probe of the agency’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia. According to Justice Department emails reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon, Hur, who served as principal associate deputy attorney general, helped draft a letter to Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee in January 2018 to block a report—the so-called Nunes memo—that poked holes in the government’s investigation of the Trump campaign.
Hur’s work to shut down the memo, which years later has been largely vindicated, casts doubt on his ability to impartially investigate Biden, according to the memo’s Republican author, former House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes.
"Hur looks like a fixer for the Democrats and the Deep State," Nunes told the Free Beacon.
Justice Department officials mounted an aggressive campaign to block the release of the Nunes memo, claiming it would have a "damaging impact" on national security. They also dismissed allegations that investigators had abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, saying they were "unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process." Emails show that Hur proposed edits and other changes to the Justice Department’s letter to House Republicans.
Garland appointed Hur, who now works in private practice, to investigate "the possible unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or other records" discovered at Biden’s home in Delaware and at his former think tank office in Washington, D.C. Garland said he was "confident that Mr. Hur will carry out his responsibility in an even-handed and urgent manner."
But according to Nunes, it’s hardly clear that the special counsel will maintain neutrality.
"Before Hur even begins as special counsel, Congress should use a subpoena to force him to explain his role in obstructing the House Intelligence Committee’s FISA abuse investigation, targeting our staff and my lawyers, and helping to write an utterly false letter trying to stop the release of the Nunes memo," said Nunes.
The Nunes memo has largely been vindicated. The four-page report revealed that the FBI failed to verify allegations in the infamous Steele dossier, which falsely alleged that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
The Justice Department and FBI cited the dossier extensively in applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants to spy on a Trump campaign adviser. The Nunes memo also revealed that federal officials failed to disclose that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had funded the dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Justice Department’s inspector general found that the Justice Department and FBI misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court about efforts to verify the dossier as part of its investigation into the Trump campaign. FBI and DOJ officials also omitted evidence that undermined the claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
The Justice Department, White House, and Hur did not respond to requests for comment.