The White House has condemned a report compiled by US special counsel Robert Hur, who investigated allegations that President Joe Biden mishandled classified documents. A top legal staffer said the prosecutor went beyond his mandate in describing Biden as having "diminished faculties in advancing age."
The spokesman for the White House's Office of the General Counsel, Ian Sams, went on the offensive against Hur's report during a rare Friday press briefing. Though the report ultimately recommended no charges for Biden, Sams questioned why Hur discussed the president's age at all.
"When the inevitable conclusion is that the facts and the evidence don't support any charges, you're left to wonder why this report spends time making gratuitous and inappropriate criticisms of the president," he added.
Though Sams did not dispute Hur's intentions, Vice President Kamala Harris suggested the special counsel was "politically motivated" earlier on Friday, saying his description of Biden "could not be more wrong on the facts."
"And so I will say, when it comes to the role and responsibility of a prosecutor in a situation like that, we should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity than what we saw," Harris said.
Hur was initially appointed US Attorney for the District of Maryland in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump, but resigned just three years later. He returned to government in early 2023, when Attorney General Merrick Garland made him special counsel on the classified documents investigation.
In a 345-page report released on Thursday, Hur said the probe had "uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen," but went on to conclude that potential jurors would view Biden as "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory." He chose not to pursue criminal charges against the president.
While Biden hailed that decision during a press conference on Thursday, he rejected Hur's references to his advanced age, insisting his memory was "fine" and that "I know what I am doing."
Just minutes later, Biden erroneously called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the leader of Mexico when discussing the situation in Gaza, the latest in a series of similar misnaming gaffes in recent days.
Comment: See: Biden claims his memory is fine, calls on Egypt's Sisi 'president of Mexico' to open border with Gaza
As the oldest president in US history at the age of 81, Biden's fitness is among the top concerns for American voters as they enter the 2024 election season. In a recent NBC News poll, 76% of respondents voiced major or moderate concerns over the president's "mental and physical health," reflecting similar results of another survey conducted last September.