- A special counsel report cleared Biden of charges related to his handling of classified documents.
- But the report also questions the president’s memory — a sticking point for voters.
- It’s a tiring reminder to voters: They’re stuck with two 2024 candidates they don’t want to see.
The 2024 presidential race offers voters two major choices: a 77-year-old man who has been indicted on 91 felony counts (he denies any wrongdoing) and an 81-year-old man accused of memory issues by special counsel Robert K. Hurray.
On Thursday, Hur announced that prosecutors would not file charges related to the president’s handling of classified documents. Good news for President Joe Biden.
The bad news for Biden: The report questioned his mental acuity, bringing one of the main concerns voters have about Biden to the forefront of the race.
Special counsel Hur’s report includes claims that Biden forgot what year he was vice president or exactly when his son Beau died during interviews with prosecutors.
Biden, during a fiery press conference Thursday in response to the report, denied he had forgotten the year of his son’s death.
Hur wrote that part of the reason his team is not pursuing charges is that Biden “is likely to appear before a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a charming, well-meaning, older man with poor memory”. adding that it would be difficult to convince the jury to convict him of a “serious offense requiring a willful state of mind”.
Biden’s age and memory have been a frequent target for his opponents — mostly Republicans — who argue the 81-year-old is unfit for a second term in office.
Shortly after the report was released, Donald Trump shared an article on Social Truth with a headline that led to Biden’s apparent oblivion in his interviews.
The troubling details about Biden’s mental acuity dig deeper into voters’ murky expectations for the 2024 election: a race between two candidates they don’t really want to see.
Age and ability versus legal liability
Voters have already expressed fear of a Trump-Biden runoff, with 67% of respondents in a Harvard CAPS/Harris poll saying Biden should not seek another term, while 57% say the same about Trump.
And both candidates come with baggage, too — at least according to voters.
For Biden, voters not only think he has underperformed the economy, despite signs that he is thriving, but they also raise concerns about his age.
A recent NBC News poll found that 76% of voters, including Democrats, had strong or moderate concerns about Biden’s age. The special counsel’s report and the subsequent media gaffes the president made at his press conference Thursday to defend his mental acuity don’t help.
“It’s a nightmare,” one Democratic House member told NBC News on condition of anonymity.
For Trump, voters are worried about four more years with what they have long seen as a very divisive president.
There are also a number of legal issues that have yet to be fully addressed. After all, voters are looking at a candidate facing over 90 felony charges who, if convicted of the most serious charges, could go to prison.
The same NBC News poll that showed voters’ concerns about Biden’s age also found that 51% of voters had strong concerns about Trump’s legal battles and 10% said they had moderate concerns.
Political experts told Business Insider that, in general, criminal charges are much more of a liability than amnesia charges.
“I would say it’s probably better to be oblivious than illegal,” Christian Grose, a political science professor at the University of Southern California who specializes in electoral behavior, told Business Insider.
“If I were Biden or the White House, I would compare what he did and what he was cleared with the Trump documents, which are much more exhaustive and extensive and would be difficult to forget.” Grose added when asked how Biden should respond. in the special prosecutor’s report.
Investigators found about 11,000 documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and resort, with about 300 documents marked as classified. By comparison, Biden has been accused of obtaining about 20 classified documents.
Trump was subsequently indicted on 40 criminal charges related to the documents issue, including charges of obstruction of justice and violating the Espionage Act for intentionally withholding national defense information. He has denied any wrongdoing, claiming that as president he has declassified sensitive documents and that he should be immune from prosecution. A judge ruled on Tuesday that the president can also be punished.
“I think it would be overkill to talk about this report completely damaging Biden,” Grose said.
Aaron Dusso, associate professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, told BI that it may not be helpful for the Biden campaign to play on Trump’s criticism of his age by trying to somehow prove that he is mentally fit for the post.
“You’re basically playing the next campaign’s tune,” Dusso said, adding that Biden could turn the issue back on Trump since the former president is about the same age, 77.
Voters have also expressed concern about Trump’s age, with about 48% of respondents to the NBC News poll saying they had strong to moderate concerns.
“Both candidates are very old,” Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm, said of both X and Threads. “One is completely inappropriate.”
The special counsel’s report raises some important questions for 2024.
“This is obviously a serious allegation for anyone who wants to be president,” Dusso said, referring to concerns about Biden’s age. “I would expect that his campaign would have to go out in swings.”