Former Obama adviser says special counsel report on Biden amounts to ‘partisan hit job’ – live
"Special counsel report referenced Biden as ‘a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory’; Senate debates Israel and Ukraine aid bill
To former Barack Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer, special counsel Robert Hur’s comments about Joe Biden’s memory amount to “a partisan hit job”. But he still worries that they could do real damage to the president’s standing with the public.
“Based on the text messages I have received from reporters and fellow Democrats, this report will be a big deal,” Pfeiffer writes in his newsletter.
Republicans will use this to drive their chosen narrative. Reporters will raise questions about why the President doesn’t do more interviews. And Democrats will publicly deal with anxiety about the role Biden’s age will play in the campaign. I fear – and I hope I am wrong – that unlike most of the marginalia that excites political junkies, the Special Counsel’s descriptions of Biden will break through to the public at large.
I want to stipulate that the report is very bad and poses some real political peril for Biden. I don’t want to sugarcoat it. Biden’s age is his biggest impediment to reelection and this description could be very damaging.
Pfeiffer also does not spare Hur, a Republican appointed by attorney general Merrick Garland to investigate if Biden broke the law by keeping classified documents from his time as vice-president and earlier in his personal residence:
Robert Hur is described in press reports as a ‘well-respected U.S. attorney,’ and maybe he once was, but this report is a partisan hit job. He swerves out of his lane to drive a negative narrative about Biden, the same message the Republican Party uses against Biden. In the report, Hur generously describes memory lapses from others but hammers Biden for the same.
It’s hard to read the report and not think that, without the ability to charge Biden with a crime, Hur wanted to damage him politically.
White House reporters, the Guardian’s David Smith included, were caught by surprise last night, when Joe Biden made an unscheduled speech to address special counsel Robert Hur’s report into his possession of classified documents, and the comments it contained about his memory.
The speech was a fiery riposte to Hur’s insinuations that the president’s memory was faltering – up until the point Biden misspoke. Here’s what happened:
It came out of the blue. The White House announced that Joe Biden would deliver remarks at 7.45pm – giving the press just 23 minutes to prepare. What the sudden speech would be about, no one knew. The element of surprise and uncertainty was reminiscent of the Donald Trump era.
As it happened, many White House correspondents were at a meeting near the Watergate building about a mile and a half way. The Guardian was among four who jumped in a car, raced across town and sprinted up sedate Pennsylvania Avenue, greeting the Secret Service in a breathless and disheveled state.
Perhaps the press were about to witness history. Was Biden set to announce peace in the Middle East or Ukraine? Was this his Bin Laden moment, a military strike that killed a top terrorist leader? Or after a devastating justice department report said his memory is shot due to old age, was he about to do a Lyndon B Johnson and announce he is not seeking re-election?
Reporters and TV and radio crews gathered in the Diplomatic Reception Room, the site of Franklin Roosevelt’s radio addresses known as “fireside chats”. Above the fireplace was a portrait of George Washington and thick hardback books bearing the names of recent past presidents. The posh, old-fashioned room comes with panoramic French wallpaper showing vistas of America.
After all the hush and hype, Biden emerged at the lectern and did not resign. Far from it; he was in a fighting mood. Biden was responding to the special counsel’s report, welcoming its conclusion that no charges should be brought against him for mishandling classified information. But the president was also combative, emotional and then – not for the first time – took one question too many and paid the price."