A wince-inducing report just made it even harder for US President Joe Biden to allay concerns about his age as he seeks re-election.
The special prosecutor’s report released Thursday depicts the 81-year-old president as suffering from mental decline. And he cites several examples from Biden’s hours-long interviews with investigators.
Among them, Biden struggles to remember the years he served as vice president and is far removed when discussing the year his son died.
This report was released amid scathing headlines involving the president’s repeated references recently to his recent conversations with long-dead world leaders.
A furious Biden reacted during an impromptu evening news conference where he fumed at the special prosecutor for mentioning his deceased son, Beau: “How the hell dare he bring that up?” » Biden said.
As proof of his aptitude, he then cited his major legislation and other victories, such as the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, he quickly undermined his own message by referring to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the president of Mexico.
The obvious positive side of the 345-page report is that special counsel Robert Hur declined to bring charges against Biden for improper storage of classified documents in three places.
He criticized Biden for intentionally and wrongfully withholding certain documents; but he said others were accidentally mistreated. The report also credits Biden’s behavior with cooperating with investigators, comparing it to Donald Trump’s actions in a similar case.
Neither Hur nor his investigators are medical professionals, nor was assessing Biden’s mental acuity the focus of the report.
The report therefore legally exonerated Biden. But it devastated him politically. The report hit Biden in a sensitive area, as voter skepticism about his age and abilities poses a serious threat to his re-election prospects.
He cited several reasons for not indicting Biden. One was flattering: Biden’s long record of public service. Another reason was damning: Biden’s obvious memory lapses would make it difficult to convict him.
Biden showed “diminished faculties and faulty memory,” according to the report.
His memory “seemed to have significant limitations.”
He also said those gaps were evident not only in interviews with investigators last year, but also in recorded 2017 interviews Biden gave to his book ghostwriter.
The report said Biden had difficulty remembering the years he served as vice president: “If it was 2013, when did I stop being vice president?” he quotes it in an interview last fall. He left the vice presidency in 2016.
The report also states: “He did not remember, even after several years, the death of his son Beau”, i.e. in 2015.
He also says his memory appeared “fuzzy” when he described a debate over troop levels in Afghanistan during the Obama administration.
This debate was once important to Biden, the document says, but he struggled to remember basic details, describing a general he agreed with as one he disagreed with .
Bottom line: “Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview…as an elderly, friendly, well-meaning man with a poor memory.” »
The response from Biden’s lawyers was outraged. In an addendum to the document, the White House counsel called Hur’s observations inaccurate and inappropriate.
“The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a common phenomenon among witnesses: a lack of recollection of years-old events,” said the response, a letter from White House lawyers Richard Sauber and Bob Bauer.
“Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report.…The President’s inability to recall dates or details of events that occurred years ago is neither surprising nor unusual.”
Other witnesses also suffered memory loss and the special prosecutor’s report treated them more charitably than the president, Biden’s lawyers said.
How would have made a donation to several Republican political candidates, but was appointed to his current position by Attorney General Merrick Garland, and his appointment drew praise from some of his peers.
In his public remarks, Biden also highlighted a complicating factor. These interviews with prosecutors took place at an extremely unfortunate time.
They took place over five hours, over the course of two unusually frenetic days – October 8 and 9 last year, just after Hamas’s attacks on Israel.
“I was dealing with an international crisis,” Biden said in a speech Thursday.
As far as he is concerned, regarding the documents matter, “this matter is now closed,” he said.
It is far from guaranteed that American voters will agree.
Americans told pollsters they are concerned about the mental and physical health of the two leading presidential candidates, Biden and Republican Donald Trump. In a recent speech, Trump, 77, confused his main rival Nikki Haley with Democrat and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But a new investigation According to NBC News, these doubts are worse about Biden: three-quarters of those surveyed, including half of Democrats, expressed this concern about him.
Biden’s Failing Primary Challenger This Week critical their party for ignoring the problem.
“Shame on all of you who pretend everything is fine,” Rep. Dean Phillips posted on social media.
“You are leading us – and him – towards disaster, and you know it very well.”
I’m under attack for being honest and saying the quiet part out loud – the part that DC insiders only do in private.
I admire our president. I voted for him and campaigned for him. He visited my home and showed kindness to my family and our country.
But shame on you all for pretending… pic.twitter.com /OdaKvW7vbc
Phillips, who was trounced by Biden in two early state primaries, posted videos of the president’s recent verbal miscues.
In recent days alone, Biden has:
- Said, in two speeches, that he had a conversation at the 2021 G7 summit with Germany’s Helmut Kohl. The former German leader has been dead since 2017 and left office in 1998.
- In another campaign speech, he talked about speaking at the same 2021 G7 summit with Frenchman François Mitterrand, who died 28 years ago. Biden was speaking of European leaders’ horror at the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and their relief at the end of the Trump presidency. “I said, ‘America is back,’” Biden recalled. “And Mitterrand of Germany – I mean France – looked at me and said: ‘How long have you been back?’”
- I had trouble remembering the name of the Hamas group. While speaking to reporters about the Gaza hostage negotiations, Biden paused awkwardly, then eventually vaguely referred to “the opposition.” Someone in the room blurted out the name and Biden replied: “Yes, I’m sorry. From Hamas.”
Barring a dramatic turn of events, Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president. He chose to run again and easily beat his only main challenger.
The Democrats have rules allow the party executive to appoint a replacement if a candidate resigns, dies or becomes disabled.
Either way, Biden will not face criminal charges, while Trump will face 91. The special prosecutor noted clear distinctions between this documents case and Trump’s.
Biden cooperated with investigators, the report said, but: “Trump allegedly did the opposite.” It cited allegations that the former president lied, tried to destroy evidence and obstructed justice after hiding state secrets in his Florida mansion.
This will not prevent Republicans from denouncing double standards in the judicial system; That’s exactly what Trump and others in the party did on Thursday.
And it certainly won’t stop them from using parts of this report as a centerpiece of Trump’s re-election campaign.
Prepare to hear about it again and again.
House Speaker Mike Johnson called it troubling that Biden’s mental state and alleged limitations were cited as reasons not to charge him.
“A man too incapable of being held accountable for mishandling classified information is certainly unfit for the Oval Office,” Johnson said in a statement.