WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday pushed back on claims he incorrectly handled sensitive government documents, forcefully contrasting his case with that of former President Donald Trump – and drawing a contrast with Trump’s own high-stakes legal travails the same day the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could remove Trump from the presidential race.
Biden, at turns defiant and bitterly jocular with the reporters called in for the last-minute remarks Thursday evening, strongly disputed that he “willfully” retained and shared classified materials, as was said in a report released earlier in the day.
“These assertions are not only misleading, they’re just plain wrong,” he said.
The report by special counsel Robert Hur concluded that no criminal charges should be brought, and that many of the classified documents found in Biden’s offices and home were kept by mistake.
In a statement earlier in the day, Biden said he was “pleased” the special counsel had “reached the conclusion I believed all along they would reach — that there would be no charges brought in this case and the matter is now closed.”
That evening, he parried questions over a section of the report in which the author described the 81-year old president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
“I’m well-meaning and I’m an elderly man and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden replied to a reporter who asked after his memory and cited voters’ concerns over his age. “I’ve been president, I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation.”
Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal lawyer, also pushed back on the report in a statement, accusing Hur of “trashing” the investigation’s subject “with extraneous, unfounded and irrelevant critical commentary.”
“The special counsel could not refrain from investigative excess, perhaps unsurprising given the intense pressures of the current political environment,” Bauer’s statement read. “Whatever the impact of those pressures on the final report, it flouts department regulations and norms.”
Biden’s detractors weighed in within the hour.
“The President’s press conference this evening further confirmed on live television what the Special Counsel report outlined,” Speaker of the House Mike Johnson posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “He is not fit to be President.”
Biden is not the only president to face criticism over his handling of documents. In 1973, a Washington Post reporter who had had lunch in 1970 with then-former President Lyndon B. Johnson, wrote that “the ex-President came prepared with the goods in the form of stacks of papers marked TOP SECRET and TOP SECRET SENSITIVE. Over and over, he read from the various memoranda, letters and other documents to back up his positions.”
Trump faces 40 felony counts over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left office.
Trump, in a statement, said the Biden case was “100 times different and more severe than mine.” He added: “I did nothing wrong, and I cooperated far more.”
Trump’s case is the first federal indictment of a U.S. president. He has pleaded not guilty.