The White House launched a fierce fight Friday against a devastating special counsel report that criticized Joe Biden’s poor memory, describing it as a political blow to the president in an election year.
US Vice President Kamala Harris led the charge to face the fallout after the investigation cleared Biden of illegally withholding classified documents but gave a damning description of him as a “well-intentioned old man with a bad memory” .
The 81-year-old Democrat responded angrily at a late-night news conference Thursday to insist that his “memory is fine,” though he then compounded the problem by briefly confusing the presidents of Egypt and Mexico.
“The way the president’s conduct was characterized in that report could not be more factually flawed and (was) clearly politically motivated,” Harris said when asked about special counsel Robert Hur’s report.
His comments marked a new line of attack for Biden and the White House, moving from criticism of the report to questioning the special counsel’s own motives.
Hur was appointed by then-Republican President Donald Trump as federal prosecutor for the District of Maryland in 2017 before being appointed by Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland as a special prosecutor in the documents case.
As questions arise about Biden’s mental acuity as he seeks a second term, attention is also on Harris, as she would be first in line to succeed as president should he resign or become incapacitated.
Both Biden and Harris are suffering extremely low approval ratings as they campaign for another four years in the White House, most likely against Trump.
‘Gratuitous and inappropriate’
The White House separately criticized the “gratuitous and inappropriate criticism.”
White House Counsel’s Office spokesman Ian Sams stopped short of saying Hur was partisan, but suggested he felt pressured to “go beyond his competence” because of the polarized political situation in the United States.
“When the inevitable conclusion is that the facts and evidence do not support any accusation, one wonders why this report spends time making gratuitous and inappropriate criticism of the president,” spokesman Ian Sams said at a briefing.
“We’re in a very pressured political environment. And when you’re the first special prosecutor in history not to indict anyone, there’s pressure to criticize.”
Republicans have called on Biden to resign. Trump, who faces criminal charges for withholding classified documents and then refusing to cooperate with investigators, has accused the Justice Department of applying double standards.
The White House’s Sams also downplayed suggestions that the report’s age criticism could hurt Biden in November polls, saying, “I think the public is smart.”
Biden gave his own furious response from the White House on Thursday night, particularly criticizing the special counsel for claiming he couldn’t even remember the date of his son Beau’s death in 2015.
“To suggest that he couldn’t remember when his son died is really off the mark,” Sams added.