Senate Democrats say they aren’t worried about fresh allegations that President Joe Biden’s memory is failing. Instead, they’re criticizing Special Counsel Robert Hur for what they’re calling gratuitous attacks.
Hur’s report, released publicly on Thursday, recommended no charges for Biden over his handling of classified documents but indicated a jury might perceive the president to be a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” The report by the Trump-appointed former U.S. attorney for Maryland said Biden had trouble remembering when his term as vice president started and ended and couldn’t recall when his son, Beau, passed away.
The last point, in particular, inflamed Senate Democrats.
“What you have is a grandstander not a prosecutor,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said in a brief interview, adding he expected the U.S. would see Biden “very vigorously engaged” as the campaign season heats up.
“It is outrageous the way he disrespected and maligned the president,” Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said. “What he said about the president not remembering the death of his beloved son is just so despicable.”
Republicans immediately argued the report was further evidence that Biden was not up for another four years of leading the country. Speaker Mike Johnson said bluntly in a Thursday statement that “he is not fit to be President.”
Democrats rebutted on Friday by also saying they haven’t noticed the same issues in personal interactions with Biden. Smith said she spent the bulk of a day traveling recently with Biden and found him to be “at the very top of his game, all the way through it, both in private and in person.” She hit the special prosecutor as “a Trump appointee who, clearly in my mind, when you look at it, has a political ax to grind.”
“I think this issue of age is already out there, and when November comes, it’s going to be a choice between two people,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chair of the Armed Services Committee. “I was with a congressional leadership about two weeks ago, and no one walked out of that meeting, saying, ‘Oh, my God, it was like he wasn’t in charge.’”
And several Democrats said this was just a flash in the pan, as Republicans have been coming at Biden over his age for a while. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), one of the most endangered Senate Democrats, said in an interview that he’d yet to review the report but that: “People have been talking about his age for a while. It is what it is.” Asked if he had concerns with regards to Biden’s memory, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said: “He’s dealing with that. That’s an issue that is well known. It’s not new.”
But how could Biden reassure Americans concerned with his age and memory? “It’s good for him to get out and show himself as much as possible at this point,” Welch replied.
Even those Democrats who acknowledged Biden might have a problem were quick to say that Trump wasn’t any better off.
“Trump is going on 78. And the President is 81 years old. Is that meaningful? Of course not, it’s the same. They are older folks, and they’re our choices,” said Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.)
“Trump doesn’t know if he’s talking about Haley or Pelosi or anything,” he continued, referring to a recent Trump flub. “So we can keep talking back and forth, but it comes back to the very core choice that we have as a nation: Do we want order over chaos? Do we want the truth over lying? Do we want virtue over just corruption and sleaze?”
Mia McCarthy contributed to this report.