A report that legally clears Joe Biden but politically weakens him has been released by Special prosecutor Robert Hur. He investigated the withholding of confidential documents by the US president. The prosecutor does not advise legal proceedings against Biden, but he highlights the president’s frailty, especially his “bad memory” which seems to have declined over the years.
In the 388-page report, it’s stated that Biden “knowingly kept and released classified documents after his vice-presidency (2009-2017) while he was a private citizen”. However, Hur doesn’t think an indictment is justified, partly because a jury might be sympathetic towards “a well-meaning elderly man with a bad memory”.
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Biden, a candidate for re-election, is already under criticism and ridicule over his age and occasional confusion, suggesting he may not be in full control of his faculties. This report could be politically damaging, as he is running neck and neck in the polls with Donald Trump, his main opponent, who sometimes leads in certain polls.
“Diminished faculties and defective memory”
Notable excerpts from the report include Biden’s inability to remember when he was vice president, forgetting when his term started and ended. He also seemed to have forgotten about the death of his son Beau, who died in 2015 from brain cancer. “And his memory appeared fuzzy when he described the debates over Afghanistan that were once so important to him,” wrote the prosecutor.
According to Hur, Biden’s memory has deteriorated since 2017, a conclusion he made based on the president’s interviews with his biographer Mark Zwonitzer that year. Conversations “are often extremely slow, with Mr. Biden having difficulty remembering events” and struggling to read his own notes. “During his interview with our office, Mr. Biden’s memory was worse,” the prosecutor affirms.
The state of Biden’s memory, as demonstrated during the interviews, could partially exonerate him in front of a jury, Hur argues. He said: “Mr. Biden’s apparent errors and failures in February and April 2017 will probably seem consistent with his diminished faculties and defective memory”.
Classified documents left in the garage
Biden is also accused of storing classified documents at his home, specifically on the war in Afghanistan, without authorization. They were found in his Delaware home, “in a badly damaged box in the garage”, along with a dog cage, a broken lamp wrapped in duct tape, and potting soil.
Hur argues that a juror “could conclude that this is not where someone intentionally stores what they consider to be classified documents.” It would be “more likely a place where a person stores classified documents that they have forgotten or of which they are unaware of the existence. »
As per the report, Biden was allowed to possess these documents in 2022, as president. However, he wasn’t allowed to store them at home from the start of 2017 (the end of his vice-presidency with Barack Obama) until his election to the presidency in 2022.
Former President Trump, also a re-election candidate, is accused of keeping confidential documents at his home. He responded to the report in a press release, calling out “a two-tiered judicial system”. “Biden’s documents case is different from mine and 100 times more serious. I did nothing wrong and I cooperated much more” with the investigators, he insisted. The prosecutor highlights in his report that, unlike Biden, Trump refused to return the files he kept after his presidency and even tried to destroy some of them.
Comments “neither accurate nor appropriate”
Republicans have seized the opportunity to attack Biden in the midst of the presidential campaign. “When we do not have the faculties required to be judged (…), we certainly do not have the faculties required to be in the Oval Office,” claimed their leader in the House, Mike Johnson. “An elderly man with a bad memory should not have the nuclear codes,” stated Kevin Hern, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
The White House has reacted strongly to the report. In an additional note, it writes that the comments on Biden’s memory “have no place in a Department of Justice report” and are “neither accurate nor appropriate”. The hesitations in his responses describe “a common phenomenon among witnesses: a lack of memory of events several years old,” the presidency points out, adding that the interviews took place the day after October 7, the day of a deadly attack by Hamas on Israel. The American president was then managing an international crisis, which could explain Biden’s inaccuracies, the note suggests.
“I mean well, I’m an old man and I know what I’m doing, damn it (…) I don’t have memory problems,” Biden responded, angrily, during a speech on Thursday. As a reminder, his doctor had previously described him as “in good health” in a detailed report. However, shortly after his first remarks, Biden confused the name of a foreign leader, referring to “Mexico’s president, Sissi”, when he actually meant the Egyptian head of state Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Over the last weekend, he had even mentioned a conversation he supposedly had in 2021 at a G7 summit with President François Mitterrand, who died in 1996.