Kamala Harris slams DOJ report on Biden documents as White House works to control damage

Kamala Harris slams DOJ report on Biden documents as White House works to control damage

The White House worked overtime Friday to discredit a special counsel’s claims that President Joe Biden suffers from memory loss, characterizing the details of the president’s lapses in the Justice Department report as inaccurate, out of bounds − and politically motivated.

“As a former prosecutor, the comments that were made by that prosecutor: gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate,” said Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously served as California’s attorney general.

“The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and clearly politically motivated,” said Harris, addressing the report after speaking at a White House event on gun violence prevention.


Seeking damage control from a bombshell special counsel report that elevated concerns about Biden’s age and mental fitness, White House counsel spokesman Ian Sams sought to counter the findings at a briefing with reporters. Sams pointed to “a pressurized political environment” in which he said Republicans have “made up claims of a two-tiered system of justice between Republicans and Democrats.”

“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,” Sams said.


President Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington.
Robert Hur, who Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed as special counsel to lead the investigation into Biden’s classified documents, is a Republican and former Trump appointee as U.S. attorney in Maryland.

Hur’s report, released Thursday, recommended no charges against Biden over classified documents found at the president’s Delaware residence but cited evidence that Biden “willfully retained” classified materials. Nevertheless, Hur concluded that jurors would likely find reasonable doubt.

The report portrayed Biden as an elderly man with “diminished capacities,” including memory loss, claiming Biden could not recall which years he served as vice president or when his son, Beau Biden, had died of brain cancer.


“When you are the first special counsel in history not to indict anybody there is pressure to criticize and to make statements that maybe otherwise you wouldn’t make,” Sams said.


Republicans seized on the report’s claims. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is challenging former president Donald Trump for the GOP nomination, wrote on social media that “the White House is not a taxpayer-subsidized nursing home.”


Biden, who turned 81 in November, attacked Hur’s characterizations Thursday night at a hastily arranged press conference, insisting “my memory is fine” and angrily rejecting the assertion that he could not remember when his son died. Biden also disputed the special counsel’s conclusion that Biden “willfully retained” the classified documents.

Disputing the claims of Biden’s memory loss, Sams said the report contradicts itself. He cited page 233, which says that if a case against Biden were to go to trial “we expect the evidence of Mr. Biden’s state of mind to be compelling − clear, forceful testimony that he did, in fact, believe he was allowed” to have notebooks that contained classified documents.

“I can’t explain why the report veers all over the place on this issue,” Sams said.


The White House received the full 383-page special counsel report on Thursday, according to Sams, after Biden was briefed by his attorneys following a review by his lawyers.

The White House stressed that Biden fully cooperated with the special counsel and pointed to legal experts and former prosecutors who criticized Hur’s decision to include observations about Biden’s memory in the report. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served in the Obama administration, called those passages “flatly inconsistent with long standing DOJ traditions.”

“Had this report been been subject to a normal DOJ review these remarks would undoubtedly have been excised,” Holder wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Biden’s interview with prosecutors occurred the day after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel − while “the president was managing an intensive international crisis,” Sams said.


Sams did not rule out releasing a transcript of Biden’s interview with special counsel investigators but cited “classified issues” that could complicate any release.

“It’s a reasonable question,” Sams said. “We’ll take a look at that and make a determination.”


Biden’s age was already a concern for many Americans ahead of the 2024 election, but the special counsel’s report thrust perhaps his biggest liability to the center of the campaign.

“I think the public is smart. And I think that they can see what’s going on,” Sams said. “I think that they see a president who fully cooperated. I think they see a president who did the right thing and made sure (all the documents) got back.”


Trump, who was charged by Special Counsel Jack Smith with crimes including willful retention of national defense information, making false statements and representations, and conspiracy to obstruct justice for his possession of classified documents after he left the White House, has said he will ask a federal judge to dismiss the charges against him, citing the Biden report and claiming “selective prosecution.”

Legal analysts, however, said Trump’s case is different in that he is also charged with defying a grand jury subpoena for the documents he kept.

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