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Who is Robert Hur, the special counsel testifying in the Biden documents probe?

Robert Hur speaks in 2018 when he was the U.S. attorney in Maryland. On Thursday he was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland as special counsel to investigate whether President Biden improperly handled classified documents.
Zach Gibson
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Robert Hur speaks in 2018 when he was the U.S. attorney in Maryland. On Thursday he was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland as special counsel to investigate whether President Biden improperly handled classified documents.

Updated March 12, 2024 at 9:32 AM ET

Special counsel Robert Hur, who is set to testify before Congress on Tuesdayabout his investigation into President Biden's handling of classified documents, is not someone used to the political spotlight.

But Hur, who is speaking publicly for the first time about the probe that resulted in no charges but set off a political firestorm about the president's age and mental fitness, is expected to face tough questions about his report from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee about his characterizaion of Biden as a "sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

The president was not charged for his alleged mishandling of classified materials after he left the vice presidency. But Hur's description of Biden led to claims that the report was politicized. Hur denies that charge.

Attorney General Merrick Garland named Hur, a Trump appointee, in January 2023 as special counsel to investigate whether Biden improperly handled classified documents.

Documents with classified markings were found in two locations by the president's personal attorneys, who say they immediately notified the National Archives and Records Administration and turned them over. The first announcement about the discovery of classified documents — found in a Washington, D.C., office Biden used from mid-2017 until the beginning of his 2020 campaign — came early this week. Several days later, Biden's personal lawyer announced more were found at Biden's home in Delaware.

Just hours after that news broke, Garland announced Hur's appointment and noted his "long and distinguished career as a prosecutor."

"His 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 said at the time.

Hur, who served as a litigation partner in a Washington, D.C., law firm, said in a statement he would conduct the investigation "swiftly and thoroughly" with "fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment."

The investigation came as another special prosecutor looked into the possible mishandling of classified documents and presidential records at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, as well as key aspects of the department's Jan. 6 investigation. Trump was charged in that case and is currently awaiting trial.

Hur is a former U.S. attorney in Maryland

Appointed by Trump, Hur served as U.S. attorney in Maryland, where he set strategic priorities and oversaw one of the largest and busiest U.S attorney offices in the country.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, praised Hur's appointment at the time.

"Former Maryland US Attorney Rob Hur is a prosecutor of the highest caliber and integrity. I have faith in his ability to get the facts and hold power to account. In this country, no one is above the law," Hogan said in a press release.

Hur also spent time as principal counselor to Rod Rosenstein, then Justice's deputy attorney general in the Trump administration, to oversee all components of the department.

Part of that time as Rosenstein's top aide was spent overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russian election interference, meeting regularly with then-special counsel Robert Mueller. Rosenstein told NPR's All Things Considered the experience was particularly valuable in preparing Hur for his new role.

"So as a result of that he learned about how the special counsel operates. He also was doing that job during a time when we were under a lot of political pressure from commentators and from politicians who were skeptical about the Russia investigation," he said. "So Rob has the experience of learning how to ignore that chatter and just keep focused on the things that matter.

He is a former Supreme Court clerk

Hur's career began after his 2001 graduation from Stanford Law School when he served as a law clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and then for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, according to the Justice Department.

He moved on to work with current FBI Director Christopher Wray, also a Trump appointee, who was then in charge of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. There, he worked on counterterrorism and corporate fraud cases, along with appellate matters, according to the DOJ.

Hur also served as a government investigations litigator with international law firm King & Spalding in Washington, D.C. He spent two years there before returning to the DOJ, this time as an assistant U.S. attorney in Maryland, serving from 2007 to 2014. Hur prosecuted gang violence, firearms and narcotics trafficking cases, as well as white-collar crimes such as financial institutions fraud, public corruption and more, ultimately earning him the Attorney General's Distinguished Service Award.

In 2018 he was appointed by Trump and unanimously confirmed by the Senate to be the chief federal prosecutor in Maryland until he resigned in February 2021. Hur most recently worked as a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington serving as co-chair of the firm's Crisis Management Practice Group.

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Dustin Jones
Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.