U.S. News

Biden angrily denounces special counsel report questioning his mental fitness

Report on president's handling of classified documents calls Biden 'well-meaning elderly man with poor memory'
By Doug Cunningham & Ehren Wynder   |   Updated Feb. 8, 2024 at 9:31 PM
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks after the release of special counsel's report that no charges will be filed on the classified documents case on Thursday. Biden gave a scathing rebuttal to the special counsel's claim that he could not recall past events, including when his son Beau died. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI President Joe Biden speaks after the release of special counsel's report that no charges will be filed on the classified documents case. Biden said he Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI U.S. President Joe Biden speaks after the release of special counsel's report that no charges will be filed on the classified documents case, in the Diplomatic Room at the White House on Thursday, February 8, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI President Joe Biden walks out of the West Wing toward Marine One before departing from the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday. The President is heading to Leesburg, Virginia, where he will deliver remarks at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI U.S. President Joe Biden speaks after the release of special counsel's report that no charges will be filed on the classified documents case, in the Diplomatic Room at the White House on Thursday, February 8, 2024, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday angrily denounced claims in a report that called into question his recollection of past events and seemed to criticize his mental acuity.

The report on his handling of classified documents declined to prosecute him but found that he had "willfully retained and disclosed classified materials" after he served as vice president.

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The report also said that Biden had trouble remembering when his son Beau died.

"How in the hell dare he raise that," Biden said, later adding, "My memory's fine."

Earlier on Thursday, Special Counsel Robert Hur had released a report that was the culmination of a yearlong investigation into the president's handling of classified documents.

The special counsel chose not to prosecute Biden, as the evidence "does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Hur's report concluded Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified military and national security information. However, it also said he would not face charges largely because, as the report characterized Biden, he is a "well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory."

"I am well-meaning," Biden said. "And I'm an elderly man. And I know what the hell I'm doing. ... I don't need his recommendation."

The report also said Biden's memory was "significantly limited" during his 2023 interviews with the special counsel, and Hur continued to detail more instances of the 81-year-old president's memory lapses in the report, saying Biden could not remember when he was vice president.

At a press conference Thursday evening, Biden rebuked the report's characterization of his memory and Hur's claim that he forgot when his son died, appearing to choke up at one point when discussing his son's death.

"Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself it wasn't any of their damn business," Biden said. "Every Memorial Day we hold a service remembering him attended by friends and family and the people who loved him. I don't need anyone -- anyone -- to remind me of the day he passed away."

Biden also said his recollection of things during the hours-long interview with the special counsel was affected my his attention on managing global issues at the same time.

Richard Sauber, special counsel to the president, and Bob Bauer, Biden's personal counsel, refuted the report's portrayal of the president's memory, saying it was neither "accurate or appropriate."

"The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events," they said.

Sauber, however, noted the White House was "pleased" the investigation has ended with no criminal charges.

"We disagree with a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments in the special counsel's report," Sauber said. "Nonetheless, the most important decision the special counsel made -- that no charges are warranted -- is firmly based on the facts and evidence."

The president has made errors involving the deceased before, such as when he mistakenly called out for Rep. Jackie Walorski at a September 2022 event. The Indiana Republican died in a car crash the month before. Last year, Biden mixed up Chinese President Xi Jinping with Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who died in 1977.

Biden's age has been a deep concern for voters. According to an NBC poll released this week, 76% of voters said they have major or moderate concerns about Biden's mental and physical health for a prospective second term.

Additionally, 81% of independents and 54% of Democrats said Biden's fitness for a second term gives them major or moderate concern.

The report is sure to be a boon for former President Donald Trump in this year's general election. The pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc. already made use of the findings.

"If you're too senile to stand trial, then you're too senile to be president. Joe Biden is unfit to lead this nation," said Alex Pfeiffer, the PAC's communication's director.

In regard to the documents case, Biden said he was pleased the special counsel reached the same conclusion he believed all along they would reach.

"I cooperated completely, threw up no roadblocks, and sought no delays," he said.

Biden also declined to make executive-privilege claims in Hur's investigation into the classified documents found in his home and office.

Attorney General Merrick Garland predicted Wednesday that no charges were likely in the Biden documents incident.

In a Thursday letter to congressional lawmakers, Garland said Hur's report will be submitted to Congress.

Biden sat for voluntary interviews with Hur in October, and the White House said then that the president was cooperating with the investigation.

A few classified documents were discovered by his lawyers clearing a Biden private office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. The documents originated from Biden's time as vice president during the Barack Obama administration.

A second batch of documents was found at Biden's home.

Hur was appointed by Garland to investigate the same month the documents were found. Hur ended his investigation and submitted his report to the Department of Justice on Monday.

Biden voluntarily handed over the documents when they were discovered.

The case comes in the wake of Trump being indicted on 40 counts of illegally possessing classified documents.

Hur's report noted the distinctions between Biden's classified documents case and that of Trump. The National Archives repeatedly tried and failed to get back the documents from Trump until FBI obtained a warrant to search his Mar-A-Lago home.

That resulted in criminal charges from a grand jury against the former president after Special Council Jack Smith investigated the case.

Trump railed against Hur's decision not to recommend Biden face charges and what he called a "two-tiered system of justice and unconstitutional selective persecution."

Trump pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and accused Justice Department officials of unfairly targeting Republicans for legal prosecution. He remains the only president in history to face criminal charges.

Alex Pfeiffer, communications director for the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again Inc., quickly jumped on the report, saying "if you're too senile to stand trial, then you're too senile to be president. Joe Biden is unfit to lead this nation."