June 20, 2024

White House update: Biden’s memory concerns voters

Growing speculations regarding President Biden’s cognitive state has raised concern for some Americans who worry about his ability to perform as president in the coming years.

Robert Hur, a member of the special counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice, released a report on Feb. 5 about Biden’s handling of classified documents. 

In this report, Hur concludes the investigation “uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.”  

The special counsel declined to prosecute Biden for various reasons, but Hur suggested Biden’s impaired memory would leave a jury unwilling to convict him. 

The report reads, “…Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” 

Additionally, the report suggests convincing jurors to convict Biden of a felony that requires a certain level of mental ability would be a difficult task, leaving the trial purposeless.

Bob Bauer, special counsel to the President, and Richard Sauber, personal counsel to Biden, responded to Hur’s claims. The response is included at the end of the report and challenges Hur’s idea that Biden suffers from substantial memory loss.

Within the response, Bauer and Sauber said, “We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate. The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events.”

Biden initially responded to the report positively, citing his willingness to cooperate with the investigation and the stark contrast in his outcome versus former President Trump’s. 

Then, while discussing the claim he couldn’t recall when his son died, Biden quickly changed his demeanor, angrily explaining the lengths he and his family go through to remember his son Beau, who died of a brain tumor in May 2015. 

Biden explained his inability to recall details of his son’s death, as well as other specificities, were because he was “managing an international crisis” while spending five hours in interviews with the special counsel.

Despite this response, Hur’s suggestion about Biden’s memorial capability has contributed to growing concerns regarding Biden’s fitness to continue as President if voted for in the upcoming election. 

81-year-old Biden’s age has been a cause of concern for American voters since the 2020 election, but the concern has increased as the 2024 election gets closer.

In a January 2024 NBC News survey, voters of varying backgrounds and political stances partook in a poll about the upcoming election. In this poll, 68% of participants said they have moderate or major concerns about “Joe Biden not having the necessary mental and physical health to be president,” compared to only 51% of participants in 2020.

77-year-old Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential candidate in the upcoming election, has also received concern about his age, but at a much lower rate. In 2020, Trump also had 51% of participants who were majorly or moderately concerned about his mental and physical ability to be president, but in 2024, this only raised to 55%. 

If Biden is voted into office for a second term, some Americans are worried about what will happen if he shows signs he is unfit to continue. 

The 25th Amendment to the Constitution discusses “Presidential Disability and Succession.” 

Section 4 of the Amendment explains “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

The Vice President is able to collaborate with a body of Congress to declare the President unfit to fulfill the duties of office, therefore allowing the Vice President to assume Presidential duties as Acting President until the President is able to return.

Additionally, when the President has decided he is ready to return to office, the House of Representatives and the Senate are able to challenge his declaration and vote on whether he is able to return. Until they all agree the President has reached mental or physical fitness to regain his position, the Vice President will continue as Acting President. 

In Biden’s case, if he is declared unfit, Kamala Harris will take over as Acting President until he is able to return to office to finish out his term.

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