Biden Assails Special Counsel for Questioning His Mental Acuity

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg News/TNS) — President Joe Biden insisted his memory is “fine” and lambasted a Justice Department report on his handling of classified information, particularly its questions about his mental acuity and age that have proven politically damaging.

In an impromptu White House news conference, Biden, 81, answered defiantly — and sometimes angrily — questions about his capacity to continue serving in the White House. He also grew emotional in discussing a claim that he could not remember when his son Beau had died.

“I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man and I know what … I’m doing. I’ve been president, and I’ve put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden said Thursday in the Diplomatic Room. 

Yet even as he defended himself against a tide of scrutiny about his mental fitness, Biden mistakenly referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as the leader of Mexico. That remark — made at the end of the news conference after he had nearly walked out of the room — was likely to fuel the concerns of those already worried about his fitness.

Biden also denied some critical claims made in special counsel Robert Hur’s report, including that he disclosed classified information to his ghostwriter. He said a memo on Afghanistan he wrote to President Barack Obama that he shared should have been considered “private” and not classified. Biden also said any assertion he willfully kept classified material was “plain wrong.”

“The fact is, they made a firm conclusion: I did not break the law. Period,” Biden said.

The president seemed particularly hurt by Hur’s claim that he could not remember the date when his son passed away from brain cancer, saying it was immaterial to the investigation. 

“How … dare he raise that,” Biden said. “I don’t need anyone to remind me of when he passed away.”

The report by the Justice Department said investigators working for Hur found Biden had knowingly stored and disclosed classified information that was kept at his homes in Virginia and Delaware, but stopped short of charging him with any crimes. 

The most jarring disclosures in the report, though, were descriptions of the president as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” who struggled on occasions to remember basic facts. Biden was described as also forgetting when his term as vice president ended and details of critical foreign policy debates during the Obama administration.

“My memory is fine,” Biden said. “I’m the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.”

Biden defended himself by saying he had cooperated with the special counsel’s “exhaustive investigation” even as he juggled the demands of his office. The president said he sat for a five-hour interview with Hur, which took place a day after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

The revelations fueled concerns about Biden’s age and fitness as he seeks a second term and followed a difficult week that saw the president make high-profile gaffes where he confused European leaders with their long-dead counterparts. 

Voters have said Biden’s age ranks as one of their biggest concerns as he heads into a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump, 77, in November.

The Republican front-runner is facing criminal charges in four separate cases, including one alleging he kept classified material from his time in the White House and then tried to block the federal government from recovering it. Biden drew a distinction between his cooperation with investigators and Trump’s conduct.

“It wasn’t out like in Mar-a-Lago, in a public place,” Biden said, referring to Trump’s Florida estate where documents were found.

Trump’s campaign seized on the special counsel report Thursday.

“If you’re too senile to stand trial, then you’re too senile to be president,” Alex Pfeiffer, communications director for Trump’s political action committee, said in a statement. 

To Read The Full Story

Are you already a subscriber?
Click to log in!