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As GOP pounces on memory claims in report, Biden pushes back

(NewsNation) — Although a government report said President Joe Biden’s shouldn’t face criminal charges over his handling of classified documents, references in it to his memory may have political implications.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Hur started investigating Biden after a handful of classified documents were discovered at his home in Delaware and a former Washington, D.C., office he used after he left the White House in 2016.

“We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter,” the report, released Thursday, said. “We would reach the same conclusion even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president.”

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However, Republicans have been highlighting, over and over again, every instance in Hur’s report that talks about the president’s mental state, and his inability to remember certain instances.

Biden’s “memory was significantly limited” during interviews with the DOJ’s office in 2023, according to the report. The report also said that the documents found at Biden’s home could have been forgotten about.

One of the reasons Hur didn’t recommend criminal charges, it said, was because “at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory.”

On X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson put out a statement with other Republican leaders saying that among the most “disturbing” parts of the report are the what it suggested about Biden’s memory.

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

One congresswoman from New York, Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney, even went as far as sending a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking him to consider the 25th Amendment, which is essentially a mechanism wherein the president’s cabinet can depose a president if he or she is unfit, mentally or physically unable to do the job.

NewsNation sources with the Biden campaign said they see this as a win for the president — but it will be up to voters whether or not this report hurts him in the general election this year, especially when there were already concerns about his age.

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He’s 81, and would be 82 at the next inauguration if elected again.

At a rare late-night, last-minute press conference, Biden defended himself, insisting to reporters that his “memory is fine” and that he is the most qualified person to serve as president.

NewsNation sources say Biden was moved to call the news conference because of a passage in the report that said he didn’t remember his late son Beau Biden’s death.

“How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden asked during the news conference.

White House attorneys responded to the report in a letter to the special counsel calling his characterizations of Biden’s mental state highly prejudicial, inappropriate and not supported by facts.

Meanwhile, many Democrats on Capitol Hill are trying to avoid the matter altogether.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, did say the report explicitly notes there’s no comparison between Biden’s case and the charges against former President Donald Trump, who was indicted over his alleged mishandling of classified documents last year.

It was this part of the report that Democrats focused on while brushing off criticisms over Biden’s ability to remember things.

At a briefing Friday, White House spokesperson Ian Sams reiterated that experts called the comments on Biden’s personal character “out of line and inappropriate.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.