President Biden lashed out at reporters and special counsel Robert Hur Thursday night in response to a scathing report on Biden’s mishandling of classified documents that could prove devastating to his re-election prospects.
The report on Biden’s improper retention of sensitive material by Hur did not recommend criminal charges, but observed that the 81-year-old commander-in-chief was greatly diminished mentally, forgetting the dates of key events of his life during an interview with investigators.
“I’ve seen the headlines since the report was released about my willful retention of documents. These assertions are not only just misleading, they’re just plain wrong,” Biden said defiantly during a hastily scheduled appearance in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.
“In addition, I know there’s some attention paid to the language in the report about my recollection of events. There’s even some reference that I don’t remember when my son died. How the hell dare he raise that? Frankly when I was asked the question, I thought to myself it wasn’t any of their damned business.”
Biden then railed against Hur’s assessment that he would likely be let off by a jury on the grounds of perceived senility — moments before misidentifying Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the “president of Mexico.”
“I am well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden fumed, editing Hur’s description of him as coming across to prospective jurors as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
The president retorted: “I’ve been president and I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation.”
“My memory is fine,” Biden snapped at one reporter, telling another, “My memory is so bad I let you speak.”
Biden shirked responsibility for the documents fiasco when pressed by reporters.
“I didn’t know how half the boxes got in my garage,” he said, blaming staff for his decades-long streak of sloppy handling of the nation’s secrets.
Key takeaways from special counsel Robert Hur’s report on Biden’s classified documents
- Joe Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after leaving the vice presidency in January 2017.
- Classified documents about the war in Afghanistan were found in a box in the garage at Biden’s main residence in Wilmington, Del.
- Biden repeatedly disclosed classified information he wrote down in notebooks to Mark Zwonitzer, who ghostwrote Biden’s 2017 book, “Promise Me, Dad.”
- During one February 2017 conversation, Biden told Zwonitzer: “I just found all the classified stuff downstairs” at his then-home in Virginia.
- Zwonitzer deleted recordings of his interviews with Biden after learning of Hur’s appointment as special counsel in January 2023.
- Biden displayed “significant limitations in memory,” both in his 2017 interviews with Zwonitzer and his interviews with investigators on Oct. 8-9, 2023.
- Among other lapses, Biden “did not remember when he was vice president” and “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”
- If brought to trial, Biden “would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“I take responsibility for not having seen exactly what my staff was doing,” he said, referring to the records as “things that appeared in my garage, things that came out of my home, things that were moved not my me — by my staff.”
“I wish I had paid more attention to how the documents were being moved,” Biden blustered when asked if he wished he had done anything differently.
Hur’s report said Biden had been keeping classified documents dating to the 1970s from his time in the Senate as well as more recent vice presidential records alongside “household detritus” in his garage and other locations — including at his post-vice presidency office at the Penn Biden Center in DC.
His University of Pennsylvania-provided office near Capitol Hill “did not lock,” Hur’s report revealed.
Biden sought to set himself apart from former President Donald Trump, 77, who faces 40 criminal charges that carry up to 450 years in prison for resisting handing over documents after leaving the White House in 2021.
“It was in my house. It wasn’t out like in Mar-a-Lago in a public place … and none of it was high classified,” BIden claimed at his evening press conference.
In fact, Hur’s report says 12 documents were determined by authorities to possess information that still is top secret — as was material from 10 handwritten notebooks and two notecards kept by Biden.
Other documents contained secret or confidential information.
Trump, who is scheduled to stand trial beginning May 20 in South Florida, alleged Thursday that Hur’s recommendation that no charges be filed against Biden shows political bias within the Justice Department.
Biden defended his cognition despite repeatedly botching the names of foreign leaders — twice telling donors Wednesday that Helmut Kohl, who left office as German chancellor in 1998 and died in 2017, spoke with him in 2021 about that year’s Capitol riot and saying Sunday that former French President Francois Mitterrand, who left office in 1995 and died in 1996, joined that conversation
Journalists pressed Biden on what the report and questions about his mental fitness mean for the November election in which he faces a likely rematch against Trump.
“Many American people have been watching and they have expressed concerns about your age,” a female reporter began, citing “public polling.”
“That is your judgment. That is your judgment,” Biden barked, raising his voice and pointing at the woman, adding, “That is not the judgement of the press.”
The journalist continued, “In December, you told me you believed there were many other Democrats who could defeat Donald Trump. So why does it have to be you now?”
“Because I am the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States,” Biden shot back, “and finish the job I started.”