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Special counsel has finished Biden classified docs probe -- but has rebuffed witness requests to review report

Special counsel has finished Biden classified docs probe -- but has rebuffed witness requests to review report

Attorney General Merrick Garland has informed the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that special counsel Robert Hur has concluded his investigation into classified documents found at residences associated with President Joe Biden.

Garland said that Hur had submitted his report to the Justice Department on Monday, and that he remained committed to making "as much of the Special Counsel's report public as possible.”

The attorney general told congressional leaders that a White House review of its contents for potential executive privilege had not yet been completed.

MORE: From secretaries to secretary of state, Biden documents probe casts wide net: Sources

According to Garland, Hur gave the White House Counsel's office and Biden's personal counsel an opportunity to provide comments on the report.

However, ABC News has learned that witnesses who cooperated in the case have been privately pleading with Hur to let them review at least portions of a draft of the report before its public release, according to an attorney representing 20 of those witnesses.

According to attorney Michael Bromwich, for the past month he has repeatedly suggested to Hur's team that -- without such a review -- Hur might miss "proper factual context" for the information that each of his clients provided.

But, as Bromwich described it, Hur's office repeatedly told him that none of the witnesses in the probe would be able to see the report before it became public.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 6, 2024, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 6, 2024, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

"It's a huge process foul, and not in the public interest," Bromwich told ABC News.

An attorney representing other witnesses agreed, saying that his clients should be able to review a draft of Hur's report before its release.

The ongoing dispute underscores a growing concern among Biden's closest aides -- and the attorneys representing them -- that Hur's report could be substantially critical of Biden, even if it doesn't recommend charges against him.

ABC News previously reported that Hur's team had apparently uncovered instances of carelessness related to Biden.

Speaking to ABC News on Wednesday, Bromwich said he expects anecdotes and information provided by many of his clients -- ranging from junior staffers to senior advisers -- to be included in Hur's report, but he declined to offer any specifics.

However, Bromwich noted that Hur's investigation has been so far-reaching that investigators even interviewed waitstaff who had worked an event at Biden's home in recent years to determine if they might have been exposed to classified documents.

MORE: Biden gave 'voluntary interview' to special counsel investigating his handling of classified docs

"This is a long-anticipated report, and it will be widely read," said Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. "It's even more important than in your average inspector general report that the facts are reported accurately. ... Witnesses who have voluntarily cooperated with the investigation and given hours of their time deserve no less."

For the past three decades, according to Bromwich, witnesses whose information or testimony were included in Justice Department inspector general reports have been able to review drafts of reports before their release. But Hur, a special counsel, is not offering that same courtesy, telling Bromwich that other special counsels haven't either, Bromwich said.

Garland appointed Hur as special counsel in January of 2023, after aides to the president discovered a batch of ten documents at the Penn-Biden Center in Washington, D.C., where Biden kept an office after his vice presidency.

A second discovery of additional records in the garage of Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home precipitated Garland's decision to assign Hur as special counsel, ABC News reported at the time.

Investigators have since interviewed as many as 100 current and former officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, and Hunter Biden, the president's son. In October, Hur's team spent two days interviewing Biden himself.

MORE: 'Whatever access you need': How Biden handled early days of classified documents probe

The White House has emphasized from the beginning that it would cooperate with investigators. Biden himself has repeatedly denied any personal wrongdoing and said he was "surprised" to learn of the documents' existence.

The Hur investigation has played out quietly against the backdrop of special counsel Jack Smith's inquiry into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified records, which culminated last year in a 40-count indictment, to which Trump has pleaded not guilty.

Trump has sought to link his circumstances to Biden's by trying to draw an equivalence between their conduct and calling his prosecution the result of a justice system improperly targeting Republicans.

But records subsequently released by the National Archives indicate that Biden's legal team cooperated with National Archives officials, whereas federal prosecutors have accused Trump of deliberately withholding records he knew to be classified from investigators with the National Archives and, later, the FBI.

Sources told ABC News that authorities had apparently uncovered instances of carelessness from Biden's vice presidency, but that -- based on what witnesses told investigators -- it seemed to them that the improper removal of classified documents from Biden's office when he left the White House in 2017 was more likely a mistake than a criminal act.

Special counsel has finished Biden classified docs probe -- but has rebuffed witness requests to review report originally appeared on abcnews.go.com