A special counsel report released Thursday found that President Biden should not face charges for willfully retaining and sharing highly classified information, but also described the 81-year-old as "an elderly man with a poor memory" — prompting an angry response from the president.
➡️ What happened
After a yearlong investigation, special counsel Robert Hur released a 388-page report on Biden's mishandling of classified documents from his time as a senator and as vice president. Hur found evidence that the president willfully held on to and shared classified information with Mark Zwonitzer, a ghostwriter who worked with Biden on two memoirs. While Hur concluded that criminal charges were not warranted, he also questioned Biden's mental acuity.
📢 Biden's response
At a hastily arranged press conference at the White House Thursday evening, Biden exploded over Hur and his report.
"I'm 'well-meaning' and I'm 'an elderly man' and I know what the hell I'm doing," Biden told reporters. "I've been president and I put this country back on its feet. I don't need his recommendation."
Biden was particularly angered that the special counsel's report mentioned that the president didn't remember the year of his son Beau's death. (Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.)
"How in the hell dare he raise that," Biden said, adding that he didn't believe it was any of Hur's business. At a Democratic retreat in Virginia earlier in the day, an incredulous Biden said to a group of lawmakers, "You think I would f***ing forget the day my son died?"
Biden insisted "my memory is fine" — and then referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as the president of Mexico when talking about the war in Gaza. Earlier in the week, the president made similar gaffes, referring to Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, instead of French President Emmanuel Macron, and the late Helmut Kohl instead of former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
For more on Biden's response, read this from Bloomberg: "Biden's attempt to address memory issue backfires with new gaffe."
🗳 Why it matters
The episode has sparked fresh concern about the president's mental fitness as he seeks a second term in office.
For more on the fallout, see this story from the New York Times: "Eight words and a verbal slip put Biden's age back at the center of 2024."
🖥 The big picture
Both Biden, 81, and Donald Trump, 77, his likely opponent in the general election this fall, have faced questions about their mental acuity over their noticeable flubs.
At a campaign rally last month, Trump confused his Republican challenger Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He criticized Haley for her handling of security at the Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot. Haley was not in charge of security the day the Capitol was attacked.
On Thursday night, during a speech in Las Vegas following his victory in the Nevada caucuses, Trump referred to Viktor Orbán as the "leader of Turkey." Orbán is Hungary's authoritarian leader.