President Joe Biden on Thursday night strongly denied new claims from Justice Department special counsel Robert Hur that he “intentionally preserved and disclosed classified material” as a private citizen and that he displayed poor memory during an interview about that material.
“My memory has not worsened,” Biden told reporters in a nationally televised address at the White House, hours after Hur released his report.
“My memory is fine.”
“I’m an older man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question, which mentioned Hur’s reference to the president being older.
“I was president and I got this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden said.
But minutes later, Biden referred to the Egyptian president as the “president of Mexico.”
Biden was visibly upset by Hur’s claim that he could not remember the year of his son Beau Biden’s death, which the special counsel cited among other examples of evidence that Biden’s memory seemed “fuzzy” during interviews with investigators.
The president said, when asked a question about the year Beau died, “I thought to myself [it] It was none of her damn business.
“How the hell dare he bring this up,” Biden said of Hur. “I don’t need anyone to remind me of his death.”
US President Joe Biden gestures during his speech at the White House in Washington, USA, February 8, 2024.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
The key legal finding from Hur’s report was the special counsel’s decision not to criminally charge Biden, even though Hur said the president intentionally withheld classified documents and passed some classified material to the ghostwriter of his 2017 memoir.
The material was stored at Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, and in an office in Washington, D.C., after he left office as vice president in January 2017.
Biden’s lawyers said the material was found in late 2022, months after former President Donald Trump faced allegations related to his storage of classified documents at his Florida residence after he left the White House and his obstruction of officials’ efforts to retrieve those documents to recover, was charged.
Biden said: “Since the report was released, I have seen headlines about my deliberate withholding of documents.”
“These claims are not only misleading, they are simply false,” the president said.
Biden strenuously denied sharing the material with the author.
And the president pointed out that on page 215 of the same report, Hur wrote: “While it is natural to assume that Mr. Biden intentionally placed the Afghanistan documents in the box and that he knew they were there, there is actually a deficiency about it.” Evidence on these points.
“We do not know why, how or by whom the documents were placed in the box,” the report said.
On page 12 of the report, Biden wrote that the special counsel wrote, “For other classified documents recovered, the decision to dismiss criminal charges was straightforward after a thorough investigation.”
These secret documents were found in a Washington, D.C. office that Biden used after his term as vice president ended in January 2017, and in collections of his U.S. Senate records at the University of Delaware.
“The evidence suggests that Mr. Biden did not intentionally preserve these documents and that they may have been placed in these locations inadvertently,” the report said.
Despite that language, Hur used evidence of Biden’s “poor memory” in his report to further justify his decision not to criminally charge the president.
“We also considered that Mr. Biden would likely present himself at trial before a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a personable, well-meaning, older man with a poor memory,” the special counsel said in his Report.
Hur’s repeated references to Biden’s memory sparked a bitter backlash in the White House and among Biden’s supporters before the president gave his televised address.
Biden’s lawyers wrote in a letter to Hur included in the report: “We do not believe the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate.”
“The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a common occurrence among witnesses: the lack of memory of years of events,” the lawyers wrote.
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Biden said in his comments Thursday night, “For every irrelevant comment, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” referring to Hur’s comments about his memory.
“It has no place in this report.”
Biden said he should have personally overseen the delivery of the boxes from his vice presidential office in 2017 instead of relying on staff to carry out the task.
“I take responsibility for not seeing clearly what my employees were doing,” he said.
“And that’s why I wish I had paid more attention to how the documents were moved to where I thought they were going to be moved [National] “Archives,” he said, referring to the legal repository for government records.
Biden also contrasted his behavior with that of Trump.
“All the stuff that was in my house was in filing cabinets that were either locked or could be locked,” Biden said. He compared this to the documents found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, which were “in a public place.”
Biden said he agreed with Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate his retention of the documents. In doing so, Garland, who was appointed by Biden to head the Justice Department, wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict that could arise from the department itself conducting the investigation.
Hur previously served as U.S. attorney for Maryland. He was appointed to this post by Trump.
“I think a special counsel should have been appointed,” Biden said.
“And the reason I think a special prosecutor should have been appointed is because I didn’t want to be in that position [where] They looked at Trump and wouldn’t look at me, just like they had [Trump’s] Vice President Mike Pence, who also was not criminally charged with keeping classified documents after a Justice Department investigation ended last June.
“And the fact is, they are [Hur] “I have come to the firm conclusion: I did not break the law, period,” Biden said.
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify part of Biden’s comments.
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