President Biden on Thursday fiercely defended his cognitive abilities and memory in the wake of a special counsel report that offered a scathing assessment of the president’s recollection of key elements of his life and political career.
Biden squarely pushed back on the report’s most eyebrow-raising details, in which special counsel Robert Hur calls Biden “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur used that assessment to determine that it would be unlikely for a jury to convict Biden for his handling of classified documents.
“I’m well-meaning and I’m an elderly man and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president, I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden told reporters in last minute remarks at the White House.
“My memory’s fine. My memory’s– take a look at what I’ve done since I became president… how did that happen? I guess I just forgot what was going on,” he said, striking a sarcastic tone.
He also firmly pushed back on reporter’s questions over concerns voters have about his age, contending that was a belief held by the media during a rare, and at times contentious press conference from the Diplomatic Reception Room.
He also appeared to get emotional in bashing a part of Hur’s report that claimed he forgot when his son, Beau Biden, had died.
“There’s even reference that I don’t remember when my son died. How in the hell dare he raise that. Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself it wasn’t any of their damn business,” he said.
But, as if to underscore the concerns raised by the special counsel, Biden in response to a final question regarding the Israel-Hamas war, question mistakenly referred to the “president of Mexico, Sisi,” when referring to the president of Egypt.
Hur released a 388-page report earlier Thursday that concluded Biden “willfully” retained classified documents, but declined to bring any charges. The report also offered a stark assessment of the 81-year-old’s memory and abilities to recall information.
Hur wrote that Biden’s memory “was significantly limited, both during his recorded interviews with the ghostwriter in 2017, and in his interview with our office in 2023.”
The special counsel wrote that Biden “did not remember when he was vice president,” forgetting at one point when his term ended, and in another instance forgetting when his term began. Hur reported Biden did not remember when his son Beau had died within a matter of several years, and that his memory “appeared hazy” when speaking about a debate over Afghanistan that was critical to his memoirs.
Republican leadership suggested that Biden is “unfit” for office after the report’s findings. The descriptions of Biden’s memory in the report will likely serve as campaign fodder for Republicans who already consistently bash the president over his age and mental capacity.
Biden, 81, would be 86 years old at the end of a second term and before he announced his reelection campaign in April, questions swirled over if he should step aside. Since then, some Democrats, notably former President Obama’s top adviser David Axelrod, have raised questions over if he should be running again.
When asked on Thursday evening if he should be running for a second term, Biden said, “I’m the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.”
The president overall defended his handling of classified documents, declaring, “I did not break the law, period.” And, he pushed back on criticism that he “willfully” retained documents, calling it “misleading.”
“The bottom line is, the matter is now closed. I’ll continue what I’ve always focused on, my job of being president of the United States of America,” he said.
Hur, who was appointed by former President Trump to serve as U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland in 2017, cited the shortage of evidence for the reason to not bring charges, as well as how Biden would present himself to a jury, during which he called him “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
In addition to handwritten notes he took while in office, authorities collected 90 documents from his property, of which a little more than 50 contained classified markings.
Biden stressed that he was fully cooperative with the investigation, noting he sat for a five-hour interview over two days at a time when he was dealing with an international crisis in Israel just days after the Oct. 7 attacks.
Biden said that he was pleased to see the special counsel make the distinction between Biden’s handling of classified documents and Trump’s handling of them. The president had noted the same part of the report when speaking to House Democrats earlier on Thursday, during which he said he was “pleased” the special counsel made the “stark difference” between the two cases.
“The bottom line is the matter is now closed and we can continue what I have always focused on: My job of being president of the United States of America,” Biden said.
Earlier on Thursday, Biden’s legal team bashed the report.
Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal counsel, said that the report violates “well-established Department norms and that it was “essentially, ‘trashing’ the subject of an investigation.” The White House also said it disagrees “with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments” in it.