‘My memory is fine’ – Biden hits back at special counsel

Biden responds to special counsel – ‘I’m elderly and know what the hell I’m doing’.

US President Joe Biden has hit back angrily at an investigation that found he mishandled top secret files and struggled to recall key life events.

“My memory is fine,” he insisted in a surprise news briefing.

He gave an emotional response to a claim that he could not recollect when his son died, saying: “How the hell dare he raise that?”

The inquiry found Mr Biden “wilfully retained and disclosed” classified files, but decided not to charge him.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Hur determined Mr Biden had improperly kept classified documents related to military and foreign policy in Afghanistan after serving as vice-president.

The scathing 345-page report, released earlier in the day, said the president’s memory had “significant limitations”.

Even as Mr Biden sought to rebut reporters’ questions about his age and mental acuity, he inadvertently referred to Egyptian leader Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as the “president of Mexico”.

Asked to comment on the latest in the Israel-Gaza war, he said: “I think as you know initially, the president of Mexico, Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to allow humanitarian material to get in.”

Mr Hur interviewed the 81-year-old president over five hours as part of the inquiry.

The special counsel, a Republican appointed to the role by Biden attorney general Merrick Garland, said Mr Biden could not recall when he was vice-president (from 2009 to 2017), or “even within several years, when his son Beau died” (2015).

At Thursday night’s news conference, an emotional Mr Biden lashed out at the passages casting doubt on his recollection of events.

“Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, was none of their damn business,” he said.

“I don’t need anyone to remind me when he [Beau Biden] passed away.”

He said he was “very occupied… in the middle of handling an international crisis” when he was interviewed by the special counsel from 8-9 October last year – just as the Israel-Gaza war erupted.

The inquiry also said Mr Biden had shared some of the sensitive material from hand-written notebooks with a ghostwriter for his memoir, a finding that the president denied from the podium.

The special counsel concluded it would be difficult to convict the president of improper handling of files because “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”.

Opinion polls indicate the president’s age is a concern for US voters ahead of November’s White House election. But Mr Biden told reporters on Thursday he was the most qualified candidate.

“I am well-meaning,” he said. “And am elderly. I know what the hell I’m doing. I put this country back on its feet.

“I don’t need his recommendation.”

the cluttered garage where the docs were found
Image caption, Classified files were kept next to a dog bed and firewood in Mr Biden’s garage, found the report

Asked whether he took responsibility for having classified documents in his home, Mr Biden blamed his staff.

He said he didn’t know they had put sensitive memos in his garage, where the special counsel says they were located next to a dog bed.

A BBC reporter at the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room described the atmosphere as tense.

When one journalist said the American people were concerned about his age, Mr Biden raised his voice in reply: “That is your judgement, that is your judgement.”

He insisted that his memory is “fine” and “has not gotten worse” during his presidency.

Mr Biden’s legal team also criticised the special counsel’s remarks about Mr Biden’s apparent memory lapses.

“The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events,” wrote White House lawyer Richard Sauber in a letter attached to the report.

The top secret files were found at Mr Biden’s house in Wilmington, Delaware, and former private office from 2022-23.

The discovery came after a separate investigation charged former President Donald Trump, 77, with mishandling classified documents following his departure from the White House. He faces a trial in that case this May.

The Hur report distinguishes between both cases, saying Mr Biden handed over the documents to government archivists, while Mr Trump “allegedly did the opposite”.

Mr Biden's notebooks were also recovered from his Delaware home office
Image caption, Mr Biden’s notebooks were also recovered from his Delaware home office

“According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it,” the report says about Mr Trump.

Mr Trump, in response, said his classified files trial should be cancelled by the justice department prosecutor.

“If Special Counsel Jack Smith wants to do good for our Country, and help to unify it, he should drop all Litigation against Joe Biden’s Political Opponent, ME, and let our Country HEAL,” the Republican White House frontrunner posted on his platform, Truth Social.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Hartmann

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