President Joe Biden furiously challenged the impression outlined in a special counsel report that his “poor memory” and mental limitations may have factored into his mishandling of classified materials.
The report spells out why Biden won’t face charges following an investigation into the classified documents and materials that were found at his private Delaware home and the Penn Biden Center in 2022 and 2023.
Investigators determined that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after his time as vice president while he was a private citizen. Those materials were marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan and notebooks containing Biden’s handwritten entries about matters of national security and foreign policy that were collected from sensitive intelligence sources.
Despite the fact that Biden deliberately kept these documents, Special Counsel Robert Hur noted that if the case was taken to trial, the president’s attorneys could present a few arguments that would make it difficult for a jury to determine he acted with criminal intent, including calling his mental agility into question.
“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. 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,” the report states. “Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him – by then a former president well into his eighties – of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”
Biden condemned the impression that his age or mental faculties impact his work or his knowledge of White House procedures.
“I am well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden told reporters on Thursday after the report was released. “I’ve been president. I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation.”
The report stated that investigators with the special counsel’s office said “Biden’s memory was worse” after they interviewed him.
“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?”). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died,” the report states.
That line of questioning was something else Biden firmly denounced.
“I know there’s some attention paid to some language in the report about my recollection of events. There’s even a reference that I don’t remember when my son died. How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden asked. “Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself it wasn’t any of their damn business. The simple truth is I sat for five hours of interviews over two days of events, going back 40 years. At the same time, I was managing an international crisis.”
The report also compared Biden’s case to that of former President Donald Trump. Trump was criminally indicted for mishandling classified documents at his Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida.
According to Hur, what distinguishes Biden’s case from Trump’s is Biden’s cooperation with the investigation. He wrote that Trump allegedly refused to return classified documents and avoid prosecution despite “being given multiple chances” and that he also “obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it.”
“In contrast, Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview, and in other ways cooperated with the investigation,” Hur wrote.
When asked about Trump’s indictment, Biden had once said he wondered how “anyone could be that irresponsible” and voiced concern about “data…that may compromise sources and methods.”
The report also cites one other instance in which a past president took classified documents and evaded prosecution.
“The clearest example is President Reagan, who left the White House in 1989 with eight years’ worth of handwritten diaries, which he appears to have kept at his California home even though they contained Top Secret information,” the report reads. “During criminal litigation involving a former Reagan administration official in 1989 and 1990, the Department of Justice stated in public court filings that the ‘currently classified’ diaries were Mr. Reagan’s ‘personal records.’”
When asked if he takes any responsibility for the way the classified materials were handled, Biden said, “I take responsibility for not having seen exactly what my staff was doing. That … goes in and points out things that appeared in my garage, things that came out of my home, things that were moved were moved not by me but my staff.”