White House hits back at ‘gratuitous remarks’ about Joe Biden’s memory

The White House has said “gratuitous remarks” about Joe Biden’s memory are “wrong and inaccurate” after a report called the president’s mental capacity into question.

Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House legal counsel’s office, hit back after special counsel Robert Hur’s ruling on the president’s handling of classified documents described his memory as “significantly limited”.

Vice President Kamala Harris also criticised the findings, telling reporters on Friday: “The way that the president’s demeanour in that report was characterised could not be more wrong on the facts and [is] clearly politically motivated.”

It comes after the 400-page report repeatedly made reference to the president’s “hazy” and “poor” memory, and claimed he could not remember in interviews when he was vice president or when his son, Beau Biden, had died.

While justice department official Mr Hur chose not to bring criminal charges against Mr Biden, his comments prompted the 81-year-old to hold a fractious press conference the same night.

Speaking at the White House on Friday, Mr Sams was asked if anything was being done to address concerns about the president. He fired back: “I have a lot of issues with the contents of that question.

“Unfortunately the gratuitous remarks… have naturally caught headlines and all of your attention. They’re wrong and they’re inaccurate.”

Pic: AP
Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House
Pic: AP

He added: “On page five of the report… it says: ‘Mr Biden’s memory was significantly limited’… But elsewhere in the report he says: ‘we expect the evidence of Mr Biden’s state of mind to be compelling’, pointing to him providing, quote, ‘clear’ and ‘forceful’ testimony.

“That’s his comments on his state of mind later in the report. So I think it’s important to take the report in its totality.”

Mr Sams also accused Mr Hur’s of “veer[ing] all over the place”. He added: “I can just say that as you’ve heard from the vice president, you’ve heard from members of congress yesterday talking but their recent interactions with the president…

“We just reject that this is true. I think that it does raise questions about the gratuitousness and it makes you wonder why that’s in there.”

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‘Shortage of evidence’

The White House spokesman also noted that on page two “the report argues that the president wilfully retained [classified] materials”.

He said: “But buried way later on page 215, the report says, and I quote, ‘there is, in fact, a shortage of evidence on these points’. Two hundred pages later.

“Put simply, this case is closed because the facts and the evidence don’t support the theories here.”

Mr Sams also announced that Biden will appoint a task force to review the handling of classified documents during the transition of power between presidential administrations, and added that “every administration for the last half a century” has had problems with the transfer of files.

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Mr Hur’s report came following a string of gaffes in recent days by Mr Biden.

On Monday, he confused French President Emmanuel Macron with Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, and on Tuesday appeared to forget the name Hamas when discussing the war in Gaza.

Mr Biden also mixed up former chancellor Angela Merkel with one of her predecessors Helmut Kohl on Wednesday. A White House spokesperson said afterwards: “Many people, elected officials… they can misspeak sometimes.”

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