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Biden claims executive privilege over interview with Robert Hur

If the president’s decision to withhold the audio of his two-day interview with Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur by invoking executive privilege was designed to limit the potential for scandal, it’s likely to have the opposite effect.

On Thursday, the administration asserted executive authority to, as the New York Times put it, “deny House Republicans access” to recordings of his deposition in which the president conducted himself in a manner Hur charitably described as the conduct of a “well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

But there are no secrets in that audio — no confidential advice that could compromise one of the president’s advisers and lead others in Biden’s orbit to reserve their candor. That is, after all, the logic of executive privilege. We have a transcript of the president’s remarks in that session. From Biden’s failure to recall precisely when his son Beau died to his convivial digressions into car culture — up to and including the point at which the president made a “car sound” — we already know the details. All that explains the president’s decision to invoke executive privilege is his desire to spare himself the embarrassment of treating the public to the full exposure of what accounts indicate were two of the aged president’s bad days.

Executive privilege serves a valuable purpose. It shields from congressional and judicial investigators confidential communications, the release of which could impair the executive branch’s ability to function. How Biden’s invocation of that privilege, in this case, preserves the integrity of his office is anyone’s guess. The simplest explanation for Biden’s decision is likely the correct one: The audio is as mortifying as it has been described, and the president’s advisers hope to be spared the embarrassment.

According to the Times, Biden’s maneuver establishes no new precedents. His order is perfectly “in keeping with the practice of his administration and that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama.” We’ll see how that assessment holds up when a Republican president appeals to Biden’s non-precedent solely to avoid a public humiliation.

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