Hur transcript reveals Biden presidency’s profound and mundane moments

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, meets a Mongolian wrestler in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The release of a transcript of Biden's interview with prosecutors investigating his handling of classified documents offers a rare window into the day-to-day life for the president. One question morphed into a well-worn tale of that one time he "embarrassed the hell" out of the leader of Mongolia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, meets a Mongolian wrestler in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011. The release of a transcript of Biden’s interview with prosecutors investigating his handling of classified documents offers a rare window into the day-to-day life for the president. One question morphed into a well-worn tale of that one time he “embarrassed the hell” out of the leader of Mongolia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Special counsel Robert Hur was thanking the president for his time. He understood, Hur said, that there were a lot of things going on that demanded Joe Biden’s attention.

“We may be interrupted by one,” Biden said, explaining that he’d just gotten off the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was Oct. 8, 2023, the day after the attack on Israel by Hamas, and the president was navigating a major multi-task, trying to prevent a wider Mideast conflict while looking out for his own interests at a time of potential legal jeopardy.

Still, Biden told prosecutors he hoped they could get through the interview. And Hur let the president know they appreciated it.

Their exchange was in a transcript released Tuesday of five hours of Biden interviews with federal prosecutors who investigated his handling of classified documents and concluded there was not enough evidence to charge him with any crimes.

While the release of the transcript may not have altered preconceived notions about Biden, it did offer a rare window into the profound and mundane realities of day-to-day life for the president.

In his conversations with investigators, Biden makes offhand remarks about working in his pajamas as vice president, laments over his oh-so messy garage at his house in Delaware and talks of juggling international crises while other matters intrude.

Taken together, they illustrate the idiosyncrasies of a presidency and showcase a hallmark of Biden’s political career: storytelling.

A question about whether he brought classified information as vice president to his home in Wilmington, Delaware, turned into a 25-paragraph stream of consciousness answer about where he kept photos from his vice presidential days. That in turn morphed into a well-worn tale of that one time he “embarrassed the hell” out of the leader of Mongolia, apparently by exceeding expectations with a bow and arrow.

“And so we’re out in the middle of nowhere and they’re looking up on the hill and we see this tiny line. You know, it’s a 20-mile horse race with all these kids under the age of 16 on bareback racing to come down. And you know, there are sumo wrestlers doin’ everything they do.”

And then, he says, they walk over and hand him a bow and arrow — there are targets on bales of hay. “I don’t know if it was to embarrass me or to make a point, but I get handed the bow and arrow. I’m not a bad archer. … So I — and pure luck, I hit the goddamn target.”

To try to explain how he organizes his papers after meetings, Biden used the example of the just-concluded call with Netanyahu and his subsequent talk with “Jake and Tony” — Sullivan and Blinken, that is, his national security adviser and secretary of state.

“I said, guys, we got to follow up on boom, boom, boom, what’s going to happen here. And then I took my papers, looked at what I need, put them in a pile, and they’re sitting in the middle of my desk.”

Biden ventured into how working odd hours as vice president influenced his decorating choices at the Naval Observatory, the Victorian mansion that serves as the vice president’s official residence.

“I put a small desk in there so I could (redacted) when I wanted to work in my pajamas,” Biden said of his eight years living there. “My wife did not like it.”

Biden, by his own admission, is something of a hoarder. Think souvenirs, jumbo photos, genealogy records, binders of speeches given over the course of more than 50 years in public life.

“I just warn you all, never make one great eulogy, because you get asked to do everybody’s eulogy,” he quipped to Hur’s team.

His wife Jill, he said, wanted nothing to do with his filing system, which he said often meant taking unsorted piles from a desk or table and putting them in a cabinet.

When reviewing pictures of his cluttered desk, he pointed to a fundraising item from his 2020 campaign and gave the special counsel investigating him some free advice: “That is something, if you ever run for office, you’ve got to keep.”

Hur quickly replied: “That will never happen, sir.”

The photos of his garage show a cluttered mess of boxes, home furnishings and exercise equipment alongside his treasured Corvette, including the crumpled box where investigators found some of the classified documents.

“I don’t remember how a beat-up box got in the garage,” Biden said. He later speculated that his staff collected some of the last items from his vice presidential office and the box eventually got deposited among the other storage boxes strewn across the space.

As the first day of questioning wrapped, Hur asked his team if they had “any other questions on the garage before we leave that subject? No?”

Biden jumped in with a joke: “Yeah. When am I going to get the rest of it cleared out?”

AP Politics

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