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Special prosecutor gives scathing assessment of Biden’s mental acuity

The special counsel decided not to charge President Biden for willfully keeping and sharing classified documents, but delivered an assessment of his mental acuity that raises new concerns.

Published: February 8, 2024 5:04pm

Though the special counsel investigating Joe Biden’s possession of classified documents ultimately did not recommend charges after finding he “willfully” kept and shared some of the memos, the prosecutor gave a scathing assessment of the President’s mental acuity months before the presidential election.

Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report cited several factors contributing to his decision to decline filing any charges against Biden. One reason Hur provided: Biden’s poor memory.

“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,” Hur wrote.

“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,” the prosecutor continued.

You can read the report below:

Further in the report, Hur noted that President Biden “appeared to have significant limitation” both in recordings with ghostwriter of his memoir—Mark Zwonitzer—in 2017 and during his 2023 interview with the special counsel’s team.

“Mr. Biden's recorded conversations with Zwonitzer from 2017 are often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries,” Hur’s report said of the recorded memoir planning sessions.

Yet, by 2023, when President Biden sat for a five hour interview with Hur’s team, his memory was “worse,” failing to recall the years of his vice presidency and forgetting the year – 2015 – that his son, Beau Biden, died after a battle with brain cancer, according to the report.

“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?'),” Hurr wrote, summarizing the interview.

“He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died,” the report added.

The White House was permitted to review the special counsel’s report before it was released publicly. In a letter dated Feb. 5, President Biden’s lawyers vehemently criticized Hur’s decision to use “prejudicial language” to describe President Biden’s memory.

“We do not believe that the report's treatment of President Biden's memory is accurate or appropriate,” White House wrote Hur in a letter, appended to the report. “The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events,” the letter continues.

“Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report, particularly one that in the first paragraph announces that no criminal charges are ‘warranted’ and that ‘the evidence [emphasis original] does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt.’ If the evidence does not establish guilt, then discussing the jury impact of President Biden's hypothetical testimony at a trial that will never occur is entirely superfluous,” the White House added.

The searing assessment of Biden’s poor memory from the special counsel comes the same week that the president’s public comments recalling meetings with dead European leaders have raised concerns about his mental acuity.

At campaign events on Wednesday, President Biden twice said that he had spoken with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl at a diplomatic meeting in the United Kingdom shortly after the Jan. 6 riot. However, Kohl died in 2017. Biden was likely referring to former Chancellor Angela Merkel, who resigned in late 2021.

At a separate event on Sunday, Biden confused current French President Emmanuel Macron with former President François Mitterrand, who died in 1996, when Biden was still a senator from Delaware.

The White House on Thursday defended these slip-ups at a press conference.

“As it relates to the names and what he was trying to say, many people, elected officials, many people, you know, they can misspeak sometimes, right?" Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

“And so this happens. You know, it happens to all of us and it is common," she added.

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