While Joe Biden won’t be charged for willfully withholding classified government documents, Special Counsel Robert Hur’s investigation into the president suggested that his mental capacity could be in decline. The White House quickly pushed back on the assertion Thursday afternoon.
Hur, a Republican appointee, announced the decision Thursday not to bring any charges involving Biden improperly retaining government documents from his time as former President Barack Obama’s vice president and as a senator, following a year-long investigation.
In the 379-page-long report, which White House counsel Bob Bauer referred to as one of “investigative excess,” Biden was found to have “willfully retained” and revealed classified military and national security information. In his report, Hur also asserted that Biden “appeared to have significant limitations” in his mental abilities, particularly when it came to his memory.
Hur used a 2017 recorded conversation between Biden and author Mark Zwonitzer, who cowrote two of Biden’s memoirs, as an example of Biden’s poor memory.
“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,” the report reads.
“In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden’s memory was worse,” the report continues. “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?’). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him. Among other things, he mistakenly said he ‘had a real difference’ of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama.”
“As many of you know, this was an exhaustive investigation. Going back literally more than 40 years,” Biden said Thursday. “I went forward with a five hour in-person interview on Oct. 8 and 9 last year. I was in the middle of handling an international crisis.”
The investigation’s result concluded with Hur’s belief that a jury would struggle to convict an 81-year-old with a “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 continued. “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.”
Hur also provided an answer to those who may question the outcome of Biden’s probe and Biden’s GOP competitor Donald Trump, who was charged in 2023 for mishandling classified documents. He wrote that Biden participated in his investigation and returned the classified documents once they were found, unlike Trump, whose Florida estate the FBI had to be search in an effort to retrieve the unreturned docs.
Biden too drew the distinction on Thursday, quoting the special counsel’s report.
Classified documents had been found in Biden’s private office, his garage and in his Wilmington home in December 2022 and January 2023. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Jan. 12, 2023 the appointment of Hur as special counsel to lead the probe.
The report was also reminiscent of the James Comey investigation of Hillary Clinton in 2016 that, while finding no wrongdoing, was considered a key part of her loss to Donald Trump in that year’s presidential election.