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Joe Biden's Democratic allies rallied around him on Friday as they fumed over a special counsel's report that the US president is a “well-intentioned old man with a bad memory.”
Lawmakers have portrayed the 81-year-old president as the best candidate to lead Democrats into November's election, long skepticism in some quarters of the party about his mental acuity and whether he should step aside.
“I'm basically absolutely confident [Biden’s] An incredible record of success for the country, he is the right person to lead the country for another four years,” Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland told reporters.
Congressman Dan Goldman of New York told MSNBC he had “no concerns” about Biden's age or ability to do the job.
Speaking at the White House on Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, called the special counsel's comments about Biden's memory “unnecessary, inaccurate and inappropriate.”
But other Democrats warned of the lingering political impact of the report by Robert Hurr, a former federal prosecutor and registered Republican who oversaw the investigation into Biden's handling of classified materials in his private homes and offices.
Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Obama, said he feared the special counsel's explanations of Biden's memory would “get out into the public eye.”
Harin's report said Biden forgot significant dates in interviews for his office, including when he served as Barack Obama's vice president and when his oldest son, Beau, died of cancer.
The special counsel argued not to press charges, arguing that in any trial, Biden “would present himself to a jury as he was during our interview, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a bad memory.”
The report was immediately pounced on by the campaign of 77-year-old former President Donald Trump, who is already leading in many polls and is Biden's general election opponent. “Being ruled mentally competent to stand trial is a very low hurdle,” former White House adviser Stephen Miller told Fox News.
“That very low bar . . . Didn't meet the President of the United States.
Pfeiffer wrote in a newsletter Friday that now Biden “has to prove Hur wrong over and over again and that he's willing to work . . . that means doing more interviews and more press conferences.”
Biden has steered clear of such events during his presidency. He turned down an invitation to be interviewed on CBS News this weekend for a spot that will air alongside the Super Bowl, a prime-time event that reaches more than 100 million Americans.
“Personally, many Democrats will continue to worry [Biden’s age] It's going to become an increasingly difficult issue as the campaign goes on,” said Kevin Madden, now an adviser to former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Penta Group Consulting.
Madden added, “The challenge for the Biden campaign and the White House is every time they try to address it [the issue of age] They reinforce it.”
An NBC News poll released this week, but conducted before Harin's report was released, found that three-quarters of American voters, including half of Democrats, said they had concerns about Biden's mental and physical health.
Biden made the announcement at a hastily arranged press conference Thursday night that grew increasingly hostile as reporters questioned his age and mental acuity.
But minutes later, in response to a reporter's question about the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, he referred to Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as Mexico's president. It's the latest in a series of public missteps by the US president involving foreign leaders.
Speaking at an event in Nevada last weekend, Biden confused François Mitterrand, the president of France who died in 1996, and current president Emmanuel Macron.
At two separate fundraisers in New York on Wednesday, Biden referenced the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl while referencing former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.