Democratic senators vociferously defended President Joe Biden after a report by a special counsel hinted that the 81-year-old president had a declining memory — while Republicans called it a security risk.
The report by Robert Hur — former Donald Trump appointee and ex-Maryland US Attorney — concluded the President will not face charges for “willfully” holding onto documents after he left office as Barack Obama’s vice president in January 2017. The report stated that the materials included files on military policy in Afghanistan and handwritten notes on national security.
The report suggested that a potential jury may perceive Mr Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory.” Mr Hur also alleged that Mr Biden could neither recall the year his son died nor the years of his vice presidency.
Democratic Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania criticised the report and the fact it came from a Republican former US attorney.
“It’s actually not true,” Mr Fetterman told The Independent. “It was just cheap trash there and it was a hit from a Trump appointee.”
Mr Fetterman said the report did not change the fact that the 2024 presidential election would be the same choice between former president Trump and Mr Biden.
“And we have our files, he has his files, it’s all going to not change – that’s going to be a very stark choice for America in ‘24,” he said.
When the report dropped on Thursday, both White House Counsel Mr Biden’s personal counsel criticised aspects of the report, particularly the passages alleging Mr Biden has a failing memory. In a Thursday evening press conference, Mr Biden hit back at the Republican prosecutor’s claims about his memory.
But in an unfortunate gaffe during that same press conference, Mr Biden mixed up Mexico and Egypt while discussing the Israel-Hamas war.
Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, said she has full confidence in Mr Biden’s capabilities.
“Unfortunately, the person who did this is a Trump appointee, who clearly, in my mind, has a political axe to grind,” Ms Smith told The Independent.
Meanwhile, Republicans were not amused by the report. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana called Mr Biden’s press conference “depressing.”
“His memory is slipping, and he’s going to be the leader of the free countries,” he told The Independent. “I’m a doctor. This doesn’t stay static. It gets worse over four years.”
An NBC News poll released before the report dropped on Thursday showed that 62 per cent of registered voters consider Mr Biden not having the physical and mental health to be president to be a “major concern.”
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said that Mr Biden’s declining memory is a national security risk.
“It’s a national security threat to the country because they read that same report in Beijing and Moscow and Tehran,” Mr Rubio, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters.
Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told The Independent that the report showed Mr Biden is not capable of doing the job.
“Now everybody has to admit, and that is that the President committed a crime. He’s incompetent to stand trial,” he said.
In a surprising move, Republican Senator Mitt Romney told reporters he didn’t find anything “out of the ordinary” with Mr Biden’s memory.
“I’ve interacted with the President,” he said. “I haven‘t found anything particularly out of the ordinary in that regard.”
“President Trump said Nikki Haley multiple times instead of Nancy Pelosi,” he continued. “Recognize that’s going to happen with a couple of guys soon to be in their 80s — or, one now.”
Mr Romney, who is 76, specifically mentioned the need for a new generation of leaders when he announced last year that he would not seek a second term in the Senate.
The questions surrounding Mr Biden’s mental acuity comes as he gears up for his fourth campaign for president in as many decades, a sign of how long he has served in US politics.
But Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a longtime friend of Mr Biden, defended him and said his memory remained sharp.
“Not what I see,” he told The Independent. “I talk to the president on a regular basis and he’s not only focused on priorities, but very clear about how to keep the country safe. So I know though I think Republicans will do what they do, but he’s a strong commander-in-chief.”