While the 388-page report by special counsel Robert Hur released Thursday was damning enough in concluding he had taken away and kept classified documents in his garage after he demitted office, the sympathetic grounds on which the report said the 81-year old President could not be charged was even more damaging politically: a jury would note his advancing age and “diminished faculties.”
The remarks enraged Biden, who is running for a second term in the White House amid concerns about his age and mental acuity. He hastily convened a news conference at the White House to push back, and ended up compounding his troubles: he mixed by Egypt with Mexico and called Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the President of Mexico when he took a question on the situation in Gaza.
“I think as you know initially, the president of Mexico, El-Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to humanitarian material to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate,” he said in course of explaining his efforts to ameliorate the situation in Gaza.
The mix-up might have attracted little attention in normal course given Biden’s frequent gaffes, but given that the main purpose of the press conference was to assert his mental alertness, it became all the more glaring.
Shortly before the snafu, Biden had asserted,”I know what the hell I’m doing! My memory has not gotten worse. My memory is fine. Take a look at what I have done since becoming president,” pointing to his achievements during his presidency.
“No one thought I could pass any of the things I got passed. How did that happen? I guess I just forgot what was going on…” he said sarcastically.
When a Fox News reporter who frequently trolls him asked “how bad is your memory and can you continue as President,” Biden snapped back, “My memory is so bad I let you speak.”
The US President was particularly exercised over the Special Counsel’s report suggesting that he had trouble remembering even the day his son Beau died, noting “He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died [May 2015].
“How in the hell dare he raise that? I don’t need anyone, I don’t need anyone, to remind me of when he passed away. Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, it wasn’t any of their damned business,” Biden raged.
According to the report, Biden sat for questions with Hur’s investigators October 8 and October 9, appearing confused on many issues. He “did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?’)”
The Biden White House panned the report by Hur, who was appointed by his own administration in January 2023, saying it included “a number of inaccurate and inappropriate comments.” Biden also drew a distinction between his handling of classified matter and former President Trump, which the Hur report also noted.
The report said in contrast from Trump, President Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the DOJ, consented to the search of multiple locations including his home, sat for a voluntary interview, and cooperated with the investigation.