The White House on Friday did not rule out the possibility of releasing the transcript of President Joe Biden’s interviews with special counsel Robert Hur about his handling of classified documents, with the caveat that any classified information would have to be redacted.
“I don’t have any announcement on releasing anything today, but it’s a reasonable question and there were classified stuff and we have to work through all that,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said.
But pressed on whether Biden would support a release, Sams didn’t rule it out.
“We’ll take a look at that and make a determination,” he said.
Amid fallout from multiple classified documents issues across administrations, Biden is also expected to appoint a “senior government leader” to lead a task force to make recommendations to improve the document retention process during a presidential transition.
Sams’ comments came just shortly after Vice President Kamala Harris offered a forceful defense of Biden’s mental acuity, lambasting Hur’s report as “gratuitous” and “politically motivated.”
“What I saw in that report last night I believe is – as a former prosecutor – the comments that were made by that prosecutor gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate,” Harris said when asked by a reporter for her reaction during an event on community violence.
While the release of the special counsel’s report on Thursday absolved Biden of criminal wrongdoing, it was politically damaging for the president, who faces persistent concerns from voters about his age, mental capabilities and whether he is able to fulfill the duties of his office.
Polling has shown that Biden’s age is the top concern from Democrat voters who otherwise support his policies. Those concerns have been amplified in the past week, as Biden has confused contemporary European leaders with leaders who ruled decades ago.
Harris pushed back against these concerns about the president’s age as she recounted in detail the experience serving alongside Biden in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, noting that she was in “almost every meeting” with him and his national security team in the days that followed. Biden sat for interviews with Hur on October 8 and 9.
“The president was in front of and on top of it all, asking questions and requiring that America’s military and intelligence community and diplomatic community would figure out and know – how many people are dead, how many Americans, how many hostages, is the situation stable?” she said.
She continued, “He was in front of it all, coordinating and directing leaders who are in charge of America’s national security, not to mention our allies around the globe.”
Harris slammed Hur’s characterization of Biden’s mental fitness as she questioned the special counsel’s integrity.
“The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous. And so I will say that when it comes to the role and responsibility of a prosecutor in a situation like that, we should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity of what we saw,” she said.
Laying out the rationale for not moving forward with criminal charges against Biden for his handling of classified documents, Hur’s report said a jury would find him sympathetic because of his age and perceived frailty.
“We have also considered that, at trial, 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,” Hur wrote.
“Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him – by then a former president well into his eighties – of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”
Biden heavily criticized portions of the report that mentioned his memory during a hastily arranged press conference at the White House on Thursday.
“My memory is fine,” he insisted.
Sams defended Biden’s decision to speak to Hur the day after the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, despite the Biden team’s repeated references to the president being distracted by world events during his interview.
“He should have thrown up roadblocks, is that what you’re saying?” Sams said.
“What’s interesting about this, and this is oddly not in the report, is at the beginning of his interview the special counsel told the president, ‘I understand that you’re dealing with a lot of things right now, and I’m going to be asking you questions about stuff from a long time ago,” Sams said.
He said that Hur told Biden he wanted him to “try to recall to the best of your abilities.”
“That’s often what prosecutors would tell witnesses,” Sams said. “So you know, he understood that, but the president was going to commit to being cooperative.”
He said that Biden “wanted to make sure he had everything he needed, and he didn’t want to throw up roadblocks,” and that’s why he agreed to move forward with the interview.
This is story has been updated with additional background reporting.
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