Long-standing concerns about US President Joe Biden’s age and memory intensified Thursday after the release of a special counsel’s report investigating his possession of classified documents.
The report described the 81-year-old Democrat’s memory as “hazy,” “blurred,” “flawed,” “poor” and with “significant limitations.” He noted that Biden did not remember defining milestones in his own life, such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.
“My memory is fine,” Biden responded Thursday night from the White House, where he grew visibly angry as he denied forgetting when his son died. Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
While Biden will not face charges for mishandling classified documents, the report’s claims about his memory could undermine Biden’s message to voters that he can run the government and safeguard the country. Voters are already entering this year’s election with serious doubts about Biden’s age, having analyzed his gaffes, his cough, his slow walk and even a fall from his bicycle.
However, even as Biden defended himself, he made another mistake while discussing the war between Israel and Hamas and mistakenly referred to Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, as “the president of Mexico.”
In ruling out a prosecution of Biden for his retention of highly classified materials as a private citizen, the report suggested he would appear too weak to prosecute: “It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him, by then a former president. well into their eighties, of a serious crime that requires a stubborn state of mind.”
Biden said the report’s descriptions of his memory and his son’s death were “strange comments” that “had no place in this report.” Regarding the death of his son, Biden said: “How the hell dare you bring that up?”
“Frankly, when they asked me the question, I thought it was none of their business,” he said. “Every Memorial Day we have a service to remember him, where friends and family come and people loved him. I don’t need anyone, I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”
Responding to reporters’ questions about his memory, Biden disputed the report’s claims and said he is “the most qualified person in this country to be president.”
The White House also rejected characterizations of Biden’s memory in a Feb. 5 letter from the president’s lawyers that was published in special counsel Robert Hur’s report. The letter maintains that Biden’s “inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual,” particularly regarding when certain documents were packed or moved.
“We do not believe the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate,” the letter said. “The report uses very damaging language to describe a common occurrence among witnesses: the lack of memory of events that occurred years ago. “These comments have no place in a Department of Justice report.”
It is not unusual for subjects of government investigations to say they do not remember an event or conversation to avoid problems such as perjury. The special counsel did not release the transcript of the interviews with Biden, so some of the context is unclear. Former President Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner, has boasted of his extensive memory, but he has also sometimes said in court proceedings that he does not remember certain events.
Biden noted in a statement issued Thursday that he had sat through five hours of interviews with Hur’s team over two days, Oct. 8 and 9, “even though Israel had just been attacked on Oct. 7 and I was in the middle of managing an international crisis.”
In an August poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, 77 percent of American adults said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years. It was one of the rare sources of bipartisan agreement during a politically polarized era, in which 89 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats said Biden’s age is a problem.
The report’s release overlapped with recent speeches by Biden in which he wrongly claimed to have spoken to European leaders (Francois Mitterrand of France and Helmut Kohl of Germany) who, in fact, had not held office since the 1990s and had died long ago. several years.
Trump, 77, also faces questions about recent memory lapses. In a January speech, Trump repeatedly mistakenly confused former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, his primary opponent for the GOP nomination, with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Pelosi was the speaker of the House of Representatives during the January 6, 2021 insurrection by Trump supporters seeking to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Trump said it was Haley who led the House and alleged that I should have done more to secure it.
But Republican criticism quickly mounted Thursday when the special counsel’s report became public.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said on X, formerly Twitter, that the report was “alarming” and that it is clear that Biden “does not have the cognitive capacity to be president.”
“If you are too senile to stand trial, then you are too senile to be president. “Joe Biden is unfit to lead this nation,” said Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Make America Great Again Inc., the main super PAC backing Trump’s candidacy.
Shortly before the special counsel’s report was made public, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre downplayed Biden’s gaffes at the daily press briefing. Jean-Pierre said mistakes are “common” for most public figures, including those younger than Biden.
“It happens to all of us,” said Jean-Pierre, who noted that she herself had made a mistake, as had House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La).
Jean-Pierre tried to say that the public’s attention should focus more on the substance of what Biden was saying about how world leaders are concerned about Trump’s possible return to the White House.
And Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) on Thursday dismissed concerns about Biden’s mental acuity after the president’s mix-ups earlier this week.
“I was with the president on Sunday,” Horsford said, referring to Biden’s visit to Nevada. “The president is very well prepared to be our commander in chief and we will continue to focus on the issues that the American people are focused on.”
Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim in Washington contributed to this report.