Feb 13, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House GOP plots lengthy probe on Biden's age to keep it in spotlight

President Biden speaks at a gathering of county-level officials in D.C. yesterday.

President Biden speaks at a gathering of county-level officials in D.C. on Monday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans are activating a weekslong, perhaps monthslong, plan to keep questions about President Biden's mental state in the spotlight, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Sources close to House GOP leaders are blunt that they don't think it even matters what they find. These sources think that any fight will make the White House look bad — and keep a huge Biden vulnerability in the headlines.

  • The GOP planning includes hearings and possibly even subpoenas for documents and recordings.

Three House committee chairs wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland last evening to demand a transcript — plus any recordings — of Biden's interview with special counsel Robert Hur.

  • Hur wrote he won't charge the president with mishandling classified documents, but wrote that Biden suffers from a "poor memory."

Next, we're told, House Republicans plan to seek testimony from Hur — and would ask him both about how Biden's storage of sensitive documents could have hurt national security, and about the president's mental acuity in the interview.

  • The attorney general acknowledged on "60 Minutes" in October that "usually, the special counsels have testified at the end of their reports."

What we're hearing: Hur's testimony could be blockbuster. Even some Democrats think so. And they think it would be worse because of the Biden team's combative response.

  • Democrats will try to undermine anything Hur says because he was nominated by then-President Trump. But Hur can point to past praise from Democrats about his professionalism.
  • A person close to Biden quipped: "With the newfound GOP interest in classified documents, maybe they'll have a field hearing at Mar-a-Lago, in the flooded server room."

Between the lines: Top Democrats recognize how potentially lethal the age issue is for Biden, 81, as he seeks a second term, which would keep him in office until age 86.

  • Even many Biden allies were aghast at his evening news conference last week to blast back at Hur's allegations about his forgetfulness about major events. Biden just raised more questions, speaking haltingly and mixing up the presidents of Mexico and Egypt.
  • Poll after poll shows Biden's age is a top worry and objection, even for Democrats.

The GOP letter gave the Justice Department a deadline of next Monday to produce the records. On a separate track, House Republicans are preparing to call Hur to testify, likely before the House Judiciary Committee. They admit they have both political and evidentiary aims:

  • "Someone might ask him if Biden is unfit to lead," a leadership source told us. "Give him a chance to frame it."

Three focal points of any hearing, the source said:

  1. The national security implications of Biden's document storage when he was out of office.
  2. The president's fitness for office.
  3. The Justice Department's handling of the investigation.

Reality check: Republicans could face hypocrisy blowback for this focus. In the federal documents case in Florida, Trump faces 32 felony counts related to unauthorized retention of national security secrets.

  • Republicans are "going to focus on something that will draw even more attention to Trump's #1 vulnerability in the election: his potential criminal guilt," said a person close to the White House.

The other side: Ian Sams, the White House spokesman on investigations, said last week that administration officials will "look at" releasing a transcript of Biden's interview with Hur — perhaps a redacted version because of the classified topics involved.

  • A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the House letter. The White House declined comment.

What to watch: As they pursue questions about Hur's report, House Republicans plan to continue their Biden impeachment inquiry, which is focused on Biden family businesses. So far, it has borne little fruit.

  • Read the letter ... Alex Thompson, Juliegrace Brufke and Andrew Solender contributed reporting.
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