WASHINGTON — President Biden tried to laugh off questions about his mental stamina Monday — four days after he furiously denounced special counsel Robert Hur for describing him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“I know I don’t look like it, but I’ve been around a while,” Biden, 81, told a gathering of county officials at a hotel near the White House.
After pausing for dramatic effect, Biden added, “I do remember that!”
The gaffe-prone president’s attempt to make light of his age comes less than a week after Hur determined that Biden shouldn’t face charges for mishandling classified documents in part because of his apparent cognitive decline.
At an impromptu later press appearance, Biden attacked journalists for asking about Hur’s report and what it means for his bid for a second term.
“I am well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden fumed while sparring with reporters, editing Hur’s description of him.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday defended Biden’s mental acuity at her regular briefing, too.
“He is sharp. He is on top of things,” Jean-Pierre insisted.
Hur “is not a medical doctor,” she noted.
But Jean-Pierre declined to commit to allowing presidential physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor to take reporter questions after performing Biden’s next annual physical, which is expected to occur as early as this month.
O’Connor did not perform a cognitive test on Biden last year because he determined his performance as president showed one was unnecessary, Jean-Pierre also said.
In a break from historical practice, O’Connor never has been allowed to address the press.
Public polling over the past year has consistently shown that large majorities of voters are concerned about Biden’s mental fitness for office.
Joe Biden’s classified documents probe report
- Special counsel Robert Hur determined that President Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after leaving office as vice president in 2016.
- The records kept by Biden included documents on military and foreign policy in Afghanistan as well as other national security and foreign policy issues.
- Biden kept the classified documents in part to assist with the writing of his memoirs. According to the report, Biden told a ghostwriter in a 2017 conversation that he had “just found all the classified stuff downstairs.”
- Despite the findings, Hur’s 388-page report recommended that the president not face charges.
- The special counsel noted that Biden would likely present himself to a jury as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” if he were to face trial.
Currently, 86% of Americans believe Biden is “too old” to be president, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday and conducted after the release of the Hur report — while 62% said so of former President Donald Trump, 77, who is seeking a rematch against Biden in the November election.
In his own document-handling case, Trump faces 40 criminal charges, which carry up to 450 years in prison. His trial is set to begin May 20 in south Florida.
Biden, as with Trump, has expressed an eagerness to hold onto some documents despite the legal gray area — and even shared classified information with a book ghostwriter, who then deleted tapes of Biden speaking after Hur’s investigation began, according to the special counsel report.
The president hoarded documents for decades, Hur wrote, with records bearing classification markings dating back to the 1970s when Biden was a senator and spanning through his vice presidency, which ended in 2017.
The nation’s secrets were found in Biden’s post-vice presidency office provided by the University of Pennsylvania near Capitol Hill and among “household detritus” in Biden’s Wilmington, Del., garage and home.
Hur’s report revealed that Biden’s DC office could not be locked to keep out students and staff using the spacious Penn Biden Center suites. Biden’s Delaware home, meanwhile, lacked Secret Service protection for a period of time before he ran for president.
Hur’s report says 12 documents possessed information that still is top secret. Material from 10 handwritten notebooks and two notecards kept by Biden also had current top-secret information, and other documents contained secret or confidential information.