White House officials and Democrats fanned out Sunday to defend President Biden's mental health, reflecting the presidential administration's growing anxiety over a special prosecutor report that has fueled concerns about his age.
“This is a report that has gone off the rails,” Bob Bauer, Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “A lousy work product.”
The report, released Thursday, clears Mr. Biden of criminal wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents after leaving the vice presidency. But the special counsel in the case, Robert K. Hur, called Mr. Biden, 81, an “older, well-meaning man with a poor memory” who had “diminished faculties with age.” .
Democrats have gone on the offensive to discredit what they see as a partisan attack that could violate Justice Department policy, specifically challenging descriptions that call Mr. Biden's memory into question.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Mr. Biden's Homeland Security secretary, said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that “the responsibility of a federal prosecutor is to investigate, learn the facts and apply the law to these facts.”
“The special prosecutor did that in this case, concluded there was no case — case closed — and then made gratuitous, unnecessary and inaccurate personal remarks, and those are inappropriate,” said Mr. Mayorkas.
Although the report finds that “no criminal charges are warranted” against Mr. Biden, the descriptions in his memory shed light on what was already a major concern among voters: his age. In a New York Times/Siena College poll conducted in the fall, more than 70 percent of voters in battleground states agreed with the assertion that Mr. Biden was “simply too old to be an effective president.
“We have to face the reality: When you reach that age, you are diminished,” Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential candidate who also attacked the mental acuity of former President Donald J. .Trump,” said on “Face the Nation.” “These are people who make decisions about our national security. These are people who make decisions about the future of our economy. We need to know that they are at the top of their game.
Sen. Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said the contents of the report were not a surprise.
“Look, there are no new bombshells about President Biden in all of this,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The American people have seen for years that this is a man with a failing memory. What this report indicates, however, is that there is a blatant double standard: if Joe Biden is not facing criminal charges, then Donald Trump should not be facing criminal charges either.”
Mr. Biden's allies have also doubled down on their campaign strategy of framing the election as a choice between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, whom they portray as a threat to democracy and who faces charges for his own handling of classified documents. Mr Trump, 77, recently confused the leaders of Hungary and Turkey, warned the country was on the brink of World War II and claimed he beat Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
White House officials were quick to highlight Mr. Trump's remarks at a campaign event on Saturday, when he said that when he was president, he told leaders of countries in the NATO that he would “encourage” Russia “to do whatever it wants”. to countries that had not paid the money they owed to the military alliance.
“What our nation should be focused on is how Donald Trump is undermining the rule of law, democracy and our security as a nation,” said Sen. Chris Coons, D-D. Delaware, on ABC's “This Week,” asked about the special counsel's report. .
But it was clear on Sunday that Mr. Biden's aides and allies also felt a sense of urgency to attack Mr. Hur's report and win over voters concerned about Mr. Biden's age.
“The real problem is not going to go away,” Quentin James, co-founder of Collective PAC, an organization that aims to elect black officials, said in an interview. “I think the only way to beat him is to get out on the road again and campaign really hard. And that's what we expect from any other candidate, regardless of your age or experience.
Mitch Landrieu, co-chairman of Mr. Biden's campaign, said on “Meet the Press” that Mr. Biden had already traveled across the country throughout his presidency to outline his domestic agenda.
“It was this ad hominem attack that called into question the president's ability,” Mr. Landrieu said of Mr. Hur's report. He added: “This guy is tough. He is intelligent. He’s on his game.”
The White House also made a point of sending officials with experience in prosecutions to attack the credibility of the report. A day after its release, Vice President Kamala Harris addressed her tenure as prosecutor, calling the report “gratuitous” and “politically motivated.”
Erica L. Green And Karoun Demirjian reports contributed.