Democrats on Friday defended President Joe Biden and rebuked the special counsel who investigated Biden's handling of classified documents as a Republican prosecutor with a political agenda.
In his report, Robert Hur declined to file charges against Biden for the way he stored classified documents at his home and personal office after he was vice president. But Hur's report also said Biden presented himself in interviews with investigators "as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" and noted several instances in which the president had trouble recalling specific dates.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday told reporters at a gun violence prevention event in Washington that the report was "inaccurate and inappropriate."
"The way that the President’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts," she said, adding, “And clearly politically motivated, gratuitous.”
"That’s 350 pages to just say that Joe Biden isn’t going to be indicted here, too. It was just a smear and cheap shots and just taking things out of context, or even just inventing," Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., told reporters on a Biden-Harris campaign call about gun violence Friday.
"You don’t need 350 pages to say that ... so clearly there was an agenda there," Fetterman added.
While Hur does not serve in a partisan capacity, he was appointed by Trump in 2017 to serve as a U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland. Before that, he worked in the Justice Department during the Trump administration as principal counselor to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House Counsel's office, told reporters at the White House on Friday that while the office agrees the report is "gratuitous," he believes Hur may also have felt pressure to take shots at Biden to make up for not indicting him.
"When you are the first special counsel in history, not to indict anybody, there is pressure to criticize and to make, you know, statements that maybe in otherwise you wouldn't make," Sams said.
While privately some Democrats voiced concerns about how the revelations in Hur's report would affect Biden's re-election campaign, others publicly also offered criticism of Hur.
Jim Messina, who ran President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, appeared to respond directly to the "elderly man with a poor memory" reference, which some Biden critics seized on.
"We’ve got to stop treating a single line in a gratuitously long, heavily editorialized special counsel’s report — in which no crime was found btw — by a partisan Republican investigator like it’s a bigger liability than Trump’s 91 criminal charges and being found liable for rape," Messina said in a post on X.
Biden vigorously defended his mental faculties in a defiant speech Thursday evening. "My memory’s fine," he said.
The president also criticized Hur for including characterizations about his memory in the report.
"I know there’s some attention paid to some language in the report about my recollection of events. There’s even reference that I don’t remember when my son died," Biden told reporters.
He added, "How in the hell dare he raise that? Frankly, when I was asked the question, I thought to myself, wasn’t any of their damn business."
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served in the Obama administration, said in a post on X that Hur's report "contains way too many gratuitous remarks and is flatly inconsistent with long standing [Department of Justice] traditions."
Rep. Daniel Goldman, of New York, who served as the lead Democratic counsel in the first impeachment of then-President Donald Trump, told ABC News on Thursday, "What everyone will soon realize is that this is a Republican special counsel who completely went out of his way to editorialize, to include material in his report that is unnecessary and irrelevant to what he was tasked with doing."
He accused Hur of boosting Republican efforts to "create a false equivalency between President Biden and former President Trump."
Andrew Weissmann, former general counsel for the FBI, told MSNBC Thursday that the characterizations of Biden in the report are "entirely inappropriate."
He added, "That is not the role of the Department of Justice ... to talk about your memory today — irrelevant, it is gratuitous. And it is also exactly what you're not supposed to do, which is putting your thumb on the scale that could have political repercussions."
Other Democrats simply downplayed the concerns highlighted in the report, saying that Biden's record should speak for itself.
On Friday's campaign call, Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Fla., the youngest member of Congress, said that voters would be more focused on Biden's accomplishments as president.
"No. 1, yes, OK, we know President Biden is old. ... It doesn't sound like breaking news to me," Frost told reporters.
He added, "What sounds like news to me is No. 1, 15 million jobs being created, wages being up, inflation coming down. That sounds like news — beating Big Pharma and capping insulin at $35, the bipartisan infrastructure law, the first-ever office of gun violence prevention."