Photo: Mandel Ngan Agence France-Presse “I mean well, I’m an old man and I know what I’m doing, dammit. I don’t have memory problems,” US President Joe Biden defended during a televised speech.
Selim Saheb Ettaba – Agence France-Presse in Washington
- United States
An angry Joe Biden strongly defended himself Thursday after a devastating report that exonerated him in an investigation into the withholding of confidential documents, but described him as an “elderly man with a bad memory”.
“I mean well, I’m an old man and I know what I’m doing, dammit. I don’t have memory problems,” Mr. Biden, 81, defended during a televised speech.
A few hours earlier, a special prosecutor charged with investigating his handling of confidential documents had released a 388-page report not recommending charges against him, but outlining his primary vulnerability, his age, and noting that “his memory had gotten worse”.
Joe Biden “couldn't remember when he was vice president” or exactly the year his eldest son Beau died, special prosecutor Robert Hur said.
“How the hell dare he ?”, thundered Joe Biden on this subject, visibly very moved and in a tone of defiance.
Appointed in January 2023 by Justice Minister Merrick Garland, the special prosecutor concluded that the president had “knowingly kept and disclosed classified documents after his vice-presidency while he was a private citizen”.
But he considered that “an indictment would not be justified”, believing in particular that a jury would give the benefit of the doubt to “a sympathetic, well-intentioned elderly man with a bad memory”.
This expected decision dispels possible legal hassles for the Democratic president, who is preparing to face his Republican predecessor Donald Trump in November for a rematch of the 2020 election, but places him again in a bad position posture towards his political rivals, who did not fail to comment on the conclusions of the report.
Especially since it comes after he confused in recent days the President of France Emmanuel Macron and the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel with deceased predecessors.
Thursday evening, when asked about the conflict in Gaza, he mentioned discussions on humanitarian aid with “the president of Mexico, Sissi”, meaning the Egyptian head of state.
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After the publication of the report, Joe Biden assured in a press release that he had fully cooperated with the investigation, including during a five-hour interview over two days with the special prosecutor and his team in October 2023, at the very beginning of the “international crisis” triggered by the unprecedented attack by Palestinian Hamas into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
He insisted on the difference between his attitude in this affair and that of Donald Trump, 77 years old, criminally prosecuted for having taken hundreds of confidential documents after his departure from the White House and accused of “obstruction of justice” in this case.
Donald Trump reacted to the report by denouncing “a two-tiered justice system”. “The Biden documents case is different from mine and 100 times more serious. I did nothing wrong and I cooperated much more” with the investigators, he assured.
The special prosecutor nevertheless noted in his report the “contrast” between the attitude of the two men in their respective cases, emphasizing that according to the indictment Mr. Trump ordered “third parties destroying evidence and lying.”
The Republican staff in the House of Representatives, including its President Mike Johnson, judged that this “deeply disturbing” report showed that the president was “unfit” to exercise his functions.< /p>
White House legal advisor Richard Sauber and Biden's personal lawyer Bob Bauer welcomed the special prosecutor's decision not to prosecute in a letter attached to the report. but regretted the “inappropriate comments” which “have no place in a report from the Ministry of Justice”.
The appointment of Mr. Hur as special prosecutor followed the discovery in December 2022 and January 2023 of classified documents dating from Joe Biden's time as vice president (2009-2017), including on the American military involvement in Afghanistan, in his residence in Wilmington, Delaware, as well as in a former office.