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Accountability gaps

Special counsel Hur decides against charging Biden, citing his memory

President Joe Biden Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci

Accountability gaps

For voters like Amy Curtis, what started as a probe into President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents last year has exacerbated concerns about one of the president’s most obvious weaknesses.

“The special counsel has told the American people our president’s mental state is not good. It’s been obvious going back to 2019 and the 2020 elections,” Curtis said.

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Hur brought a year-long probe to a close on Thursday, releasing a 345-page report on the classified materials recovered in the garage of Biden’s Delaware residence last January. Hur concluded that there might not be a strong enough case to charge the president with a crime despite compelling evidence that the president might have willfully retained and shared top-secret information. But perhaps just as damaging for Biden is Hur’s line of reasoning: He doesn’t believe the president’s memory is good enough to convince a jury.

“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 wrote in his findings. “It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him—by then a former president well into his 80s—of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Curtis, a Catholic from Wisconsin who has been vocal in her criticism of Biden’s mental capacity, isn’t alone in her concern. NBC poll released late last month found that 76 percent of respondents had major or moderate concerns that Biden does not have “the necessary mental and physical health to be president for a second term.” Biden would be 86 at the conclusion of his presidency if reelected.

“This isn’t a one-off event,” Curtis said. “There are countless examples of Biden’s deteriorating mental state. I’ve had a few loved ones with dementia. Biden reminds me of them. And while I don’t like his policies and don’t think he’s as affable as he’s portrayed, it’s very sad.”

Hur detailed a number of examples of Biden’s poor memory. The president couldn’t accurately describe his stances on Afghanistan during the time he was vice president. He couldn’t readily remember during which years he had been a senator. Biden even seemed to struggle to recall when Beau Biden, his eldest son, died in 2015.

“Mr. Biden’s memory was significantly limited. And his cooperation with our investigation will likely convince some jurors that he made an innocent mistake, rather than acting willfully—that is, with intent to break the law—as the statute requires,” Hur wrote. “He did not even remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

It didn’t take long for Biden to shoot back at the report’s characterization of his mental acuity.

“How in the hell dare he raise that,” Biden said, at a news conference later that evening, referring to the report’s comment about his son’s death. “Frankly, when I was asked the question, I didn’t think it was any of their damn business. I don’t need anyone reminding me of when he passed away. For any extraneous commentary, they don’t know what they’re talking about. My memory is fine.”

Hur’s report listed memory as the predominant but not the only reason to refrain from charging the president with a crime. At the start of the report, Hur said that there were other mitigating factors that made it difficult to prove Biden had ill intent in keeping the classified documents. Plus, the president cooperated with the investigation—another reason why Hur recommended against pressing charges even after Biden’s presidency.

The report included a five-page rebuttal co-authored by White House counsels Richard Sauber and Bob Bauer. The two spokesmen argued Biden’s mental ability shouldn’t be weighed from a handful of interviews conducted amid the strain of the presidency.

“We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate” the White House statement read. “This is especially true under the circumstances, which you do not mention in your report, that his interview began after the day after the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.”

Sherri Snelling, a gerontologist and CEO of the Caregiving Club, studies the biological, psychological, and sociological components of aging.

“Biden’s responses do not seem to be normal in terms of someone who has normal cognition or someone who is older with slight cognitive decline that uses a slower but accurate response to historical questions,” Snelling said.

She noted that she can’t diagnose the president but would advise him to undergo further evaluation and testing to ensure the decline isn’t a part of something worse, like the early signs of dementia.

“It appears President Biden has more severe memory loss, confusion, difficulty with phrasing and using awkward or nonsensical sentences,” Snelling said. “These types of errors consistently and repeatedly over a short period of time can be warning signs.”

It didn’t take long for Republicans to react to the report. Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, released a statement on Thursday night criticizing the Department of Justice for making Biden’s memory a key reason for why he would avoid charges.

“A man too incapable of being held accountable for mishandling classified information is certainly unfit for the Oval Office,” She added.

At the end of the news conference on Thursday, Biden fended off questions about his age but continued to point back to the conclusion of Hur’s investigation. There would be no charges, Biden said. That, he affirmed, should be the key takeaway.

“The bottom line is that the matter is now closed. I’m going to continue what I’ve always focused on: my job of being president of the United States of America,” Biden said.

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD reporter covering politics in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Patrick Henry College.

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