The following is a transcript of an interview with Bob Bauer, President Biden’s personal attorney and former White House counsel under Obama, that aired on Feb. 11, 2024.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we’re joined now by President Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer, a former White House Counsel during the Obama administration. He’s also married to Biden White House Senior Advisor Anita Dunn. Welcome and good to talk to you in person.
BOB BAUER: Thank you glad to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the special counsel determined no prosecution should happen in regard to the mishandling of classified information. This was a decision in your favor. But you asked the special counsel to reevaluate what you called, quote, highly prejudicial language. Did anyone appeal directly to Attorney General Garland or the Justice Department on that point?
BOB BAUER: Well, we made submissions in paper on those points, but let me just take a step back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: To the special counsel?
BOB BAUER: To the special counsel. And we reiterated them again on paper to the attorney general, because this is a report that went off the rails. It’s shabby work product, let’s- let’s take a step back. It starts with a legal conclusion that was foregone from the very beginning. The investigation could have been concluded in two or three months. It went on for over 15 months. And so along with a legal conclusion comes this flood of characterizations, factual misstatements, pejorative comments about the President that are inconsistent with DOJ policy and norms. And that, as you see over the last 48 hours have been widely criticized by legal experts. This is not what prosecutors do. It is shoddy work product.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But it was the Attorney General’s commitment to make this public that put this in this space. Did you ever ask the Justice Department not to make it public?
BOB BAUER: No
MARGARET BRENNAN: Or consider doing so?
BOB BAUER: No
MARGARET BRENNAN: No.
BOB BAUER: No
MARGARET BRENNAN: And what did the Attorney General say when you raised these issues to him?
BOB BAUER: It’s evident that he had committed to make the report public the way that the special counsel had written it. And so that’s the report that we have.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because he did not release any additional letter or anything. Did the Attorney General essentially endorse this work product?
BOB BAUER: I cannot say, I won’t speak for the Attorney General’s views. I can simply say that the arguments that we made about the inconsistency of this report with basic norms, setting aside the foregone clear legal conclusion in the President’s favor, the failures of this report that we brought up did not ultimately change the outcome.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, in terms of Justice Department policy, things are different in terms of regulation for a special counsel. And I want to ask you specifically about what I think you’re referring to as pejorative comments. You’re specifically talking about what the language here from Hur, that the President didn’t remember when he was vice President, he forgot the first day of the interview when his term ended, when did I stop being Vice President. He forgot on the second day of the interview when his term began, and within several years cannot recall when his son Beau died. Is that specifically the part that you think is pejorative?
BOB BAUER: That’s among the problems with the work product. Again, I’m taking it outside the legal analysis, which was forgone and correct. I’m taking it to misstatements of fact, and commentary that’s totally inappropriate, including the comments that you’re referring to.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. So when you say misstatements of fact, you were in the room.
BOB BAUER: I was.
MARGARET BRENNAN: For this deposition.
BOB BAUER: Yes I was.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Over two days, five hours.
BOB BAUER: Correct.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Did the President have problems recalling details?
BOB BAUER: I recall from that interview, a President who engaged with the questions very directly and gave his best recollection. And in fact, I think was quite helpful to the special counsel who, elsewhere in the report, actually cites as compelling and forceful, one piece of that testimony. Let me tell you a striking sort of vignette as I recall it from the interview. The special counsel opens by thanking the President for making the scheduled appointment. It could have been rescheduled given international events. And he makes a point of saying, we’re grateful that knowing what else is going on in the world, that you kept the appointment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: — Should it have been rescheduled?
BOB BAUER: — And then he proceeds – I’ll address that question as well. Then he proceeds to say, I’m going to be taking you through events that are many years ago. He flags that. So all I can ask is your best recollection. And that is precisely what the President did. He engaged, he answered the questions, and the special counsel’s decision to cherry pick, in a very misleading way, some of the references that you’re discussing here, is an example of what I call a really shabby work product and completely out of bounds for a prosecutor. I should mention also, Margaret, the special counsel rules do not exempt the special counsel from DOJ norms and policies. In fact, they specifically hold the special counsel to DOJ norms and policies.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what you’re talking about and letters you’ve released, make it sound like there are indeed transcripts that you have, of these conversations over the eighth and the ninth.
BOB BAUER: Yes. I’m doing here on my recollections. But yes, there are transcripts and as you heard Ian Sams in the press briefing room say, you know, there are discussions underway because it’s a classified document about what could or whether will be or when released. I can’t add anything to that today.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you favor releasing them?
BOB BAUER: Well, it’s really a decision that has to take place within the government. It’s a classified —
MARGARET BRENNAN: — You’re the President’s counsel though.
BOB BAUER: I’m the President’s personal counsel.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. Would you recommend —
BOB BAUER: Yes.
MARGARET BRENNAN: — That these be made public if they indeed backup your personal record?
BOB BAUER: Again, there’s a process underway. I’m not a specialist in that process. And so I really have to defer to those who have to work through those issues.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. But cause just this past week alone, the President in public remarks, mixed up the leaders of France, Germany, and he referred to Egypt as Mexico. Does the President have any memory problems?
BOB BAUER: He does not. I was in the interview room. And let me tell you one other vignette from the interview room. There were a couple of occasions when the special counsel, who had flagged at the beginning that sometimes he asks imprecise questions, asked questions that the President picked apart as a matter of logic. He showed that the questions didn’t have a logical underpinning. Now, everybody in the room recognized that was the case, that showed the President was listening carefully and understood precisely what was wrong with those questions. I didn’t come away from the special counsel’s failure to ask precise questions and think to myself, he has mental acuity problems, I just thought he was asking bad questions.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the Vice President accused the special counsel of being clearly politically motivated. What evidence do you have to back up that assertion?
BOB BAUER: What I was concerned about in the course of this investigation is that we had a special counsel who had one eye on the foregone legal conclusions, and one eye on the inevitable storm from members of his own party, would he had to conclude that the President had not broken the law. So you have to wonder with those pressures impinging on the investigation from the outside, knowing the attacks the Republicans had levied on the law enforcement process, did he decide we would have to ask that he would reach the only legal conclusion possible, and then tossing the rest of it to placate a certain political constituency.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The special counsel has been praised in the past by Democratic senators from his home state of Maryland. And I know when the President took office, he said he wants to restore the honor, integrity and independence of the DOJ. Doesn’t leveling these charges of being politically motivated, do the same thing Donald Trump does when he says that the system’s rigged?
BOB BAUER: That’s not what we’re saying. Nobody’s arguing on our side, I’m not arguing, that the system is rigged.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Think that it’s politically motivated–
BOB BAUER:– We’re looking at this particular performance by this particular special counsel in this particular case. And as legal experts around the country are saying, it just goes off the rails. It’s a shabby piece of work. He arrived at the right legal conclusion and then 400 page laters misstatements of facts and totally inappropriate and pejorative comments that are unfounded and not supported by the record.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The President blamed his aides, even though he also said “I guess I wanted to hang on to some of these documents for posterity’s sake.” Were any of his aides punished for what the President said is- is their fault? Security clearance–
BOB BAUER: — I would- the president would say that mistakes were made in the packing and shipping of materials during the transition–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — Right–
BOB BAUER: –And he wished he had, looking back on it–
MARGARET BRENNAN: — He had overseen staff–
BOB BAUER:– That he had spent more time looking into what he was, of course, busy, he was continuing to be Vice- the Vice-President of the United States. I don’t know that blaming his aides other than assigning the responsibility where it lay with the staff is what the President had in mind. He was saying staff was clearly involved, responsible for the packing. We don’t see Presidents and Vice Presidents during transitions, packing boxes. But he recognizes now when he looks back on it, maybe more involvement on his part was necessarily because it didn’t go the way he thought it should have gone.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But specific to the documents related to Afghanistan. He did say he might have hung on to it for posterity’s sake. Not that an aide hang- hung on to it, that he did–
BOB BAUER:– Margaret, you’re referring, to be clear, and this is again, a result of a report that was written in a particularly shabby and shoddy way. He’s referring to a personal handwritten memorandum to the President of the United States, President Obama. His own personal handwritten memorandum, that even the special counsel acknowledges was one that he would not have thought would include classified information. He thought it was a sensitive, private document, as were all his conversations with President Obama. But that’s what it was, his own personal written memo to the President on a policy issue, and I might add his position on that was well known.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.
BOB BAUER: Well known.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes. I’m told we have to leave it here. But it’s Bob Bauer, thank you for coming —
BOB BAUER: — It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And making the case, as you did —
BOB BAUER: — Thank you.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll be right back with a lot more Face the Nation so stay with us.