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Biden insists 'memory is fine' as documents probe cites his 'limited precision and recall'

President Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. Copyright Evan Vucci/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Evan Vucci/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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The US president hit back at claims around memory lapses, such as his inability to recall when his son Beau died.


Joe Biden has reacted angrily to an investigation into how he stored and kept classified documents, despite averting criminal charges.

The US president first expressed satisfaction with a commission's decision that he should not be prosecuted over keeping classified documents at home, emphasising his full cooperation and lack of obstruction with the investigation.

However, he was angry at the report's description of alleged multiple memory lapses, such as his inability to recall certain significant events, including his time as vice president and the death of his son Beau.

In fact, the report from Special Counsel Robert K. Hur went into detail as it argued that the 81-year-old president's cognitive state would make a trial painful.

"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."

Fighting back

Responding to the report at a gutsy press conference on Thursday evening, Biden angrily criticised the special counsel for probing into personal matters like his son's death, deeming it inappropriate.

"My memory is fine," he said in the surprise news briefing. 

He furiously condemned Hur's claim that he could not recollect when his son died, saying: "How the hell dare he raise that?"

Asked by a reporter from right-wing network Fox News whether his memory was too poor for him to continue serving, he replied: "My memory's so bad that I let you speak."

However, the report comes at a critical time for Biden, who was already the oldest candidate to be elected president when he won the 2020 election at 78.

Donald Trump and Joe Biden at a presidential debate in 2020.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden at a presidential debate in 2020.Patrick Semansky/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved.

He has recently confused the names of more than one world leader, saying that he had discussed the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol with former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died in 2017, and substituting the name of French President Emmanuel Macron for François Mitterand, who died in 1996.

Having long sought to minimise the issue of cognitive ability, the Biden campaign team is increasingly pointing to similar issues facing Donald Trump, who is only four years Biden's junior.

Since launching his own campaign at the end of 2022, the former president and leading Republican candidate has repeatedly said he is running against Barack Obama, alluded to the outbreak of the Second World War as a future event, and frequently descended into incoherent rambling during public remarks.

His only remaining Republican primary challenger, Nikki Haley, has increasingly made Trump's apparent mental deterioration a key theme of her campaign. However, Trump's hold on the Republican base is strong enough that she is struggling to pose a real electoral threat.

Top secret

Biden's full cooperation with the document-handling probe, to which he promptly provided the requested documents upon discovery, contrasts sharply with Trump's handling of classified material after his presidency – and his efforts to conceal it from federal investigators.

He is set to face trial on accusations of hoarding a huge number of classified documents at his Florida estate, showing them to guests with no security clearance, lying to investigators, and obstructing government attempts to retrieve them.

Trump has denied that his actions were inappropriate, incorrectly claiming that his former presidential status meant he could declassify documents by fiat without telling anyone or submitting them to formal declassification processes.

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