Updated Feb 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Special counsel report sends shockwaves through Congress

President Biden

President Biden. Photo: Samuel Corum/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

A special counsel report released Thursday detailing memory lapses by President Biden sparked swift and fierce reactions from members of Congress.

Why it matters: Republicans quickly seized on the report, with Democrats privately panicking about the potential impact of its findings.

  • A senior House Democrat told Axios they are "going to take time to read the report," but added that it is "obviously concerning."
  • "Oy vey," said another House Democrat in reaction to the details.

Driving the news: Special Counsel Robert Hur chose not to bring charges against Biden over his handling of classified documents but said Biden's actions presented "serious risks to national security," Axios' Erin Doherty and Alex Thompson reported.

  • One factor in not bringing charges, the report said, was that 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."
  • The report detailed "significant limitations" in Biden's memory, including forgetting when he was vice president and when his eldest son died.

What they're saying: Republicans quickly seized on the details. "It's clear [Biden] does not have the cognitive ability to be President," said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) in a post on X.

  • Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) told Axios the report "puts pen to paper on what the American people see with their own eyes."
  • "There is a reason he's not doing the softball interview during the superbowl," Armstrong added.
  • "Every American should be deeply concerned ... our nation needs a chief executive who is up to the task," said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.).

Between the lines: Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told Axios that Hur not bringing charges against Biden is "just more ammunition for Trump."

  • "If the DOJ doesn't drop the case against Trump it will prove once again to the American people that this administration is biased against [him]," Nehls said.
  • One swing-district House Republican predicted "of course" the quotes about Biden's memory will show up in ads during the 2024 election.

Yes, but: The swing-district Republican also noted former President Trump's age problems, telling Axios, "No matter how vigorous – we are likely both represented by two men who are too old."

The other side: Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), at House Democrats' annual retreat on Thursday, pushed back on the notion that Biden's recent verbal slips about foreign leaders should concern Democrats going into 2024.

  • "I was with the president on Sunday," Horsford said. "The president is very well suited to be our commander-in-chief."
  • Biden, in a speech at the retreat, focused on the material outcome of the report: "They reached a conclusion I knew all along they would – that no charges should be brought in this case."

Go deeper: BIDEN MEMORY HAS "SIGNIFICANT" LIMITATIONS, SPECIAL COUNSEL SAYS

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include additional statements from congressional members.

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