White House officials and Democrats marched in droves on Sunday to defend President Biden’s mental fitness, reflecting growing concern in the president’s administration over a special counsel report that raised concerns about his age.
“This is a report that has gone off the rails,” Bob Bauer, Mr. Biden’s personal lawyer, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “A shoddy work product.”
The report released Thursday clears Mr. Biden of criminal wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents after he left the vice presidential office. But the special counsel in the case, Robert K. Hur, characterized Mr. Biden, 81, as a “well-meaning, older man with a poor memory” whose abilities had “declined with age.”
Democrats have gone on the offensive to discredit what they say is a partisan hit that may violate Justice Department guidelines, particularly challenging descriptions that impugn Mr. Biden’s memory.
Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Mr. Biden’s homeland security secretary, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “a federal prosecutor’s responsibility is to investigate and find out the facts and apply the law to those facts.”
“The special counsel did this in the case, concluded there was no case — the case is closed — and then made unsubstantiated, unnecessary and inaccurate personal comments, and that is inappropriate,” Mr. Mayorkas said.
While the report found that “no criminal charges are warranted against Mr. Biden,” the descriptions of his memory shine a spotlight on what was already of greatest concern to voters: his age. In a New York Times/Siena College poll in the fall, more than 70 percent of voters in battleground states agreed that Mr. Biden was “simply too old to be an effective president.”
“We have to face the fact that as you get to that age, you get worse and worse,” said Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Republican presidential candidate who also attacked the mental acuity of former President Donald J. Trump. said on “Face the Nation.” “These are people who make decisions about our national security. These are people who decide the future of our economy. We need to know they are at their best.”
Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, said the contents of the report were no surprise.
“Look, this is not a new bombshell about President Biden,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” “The American people have seen for years that he is a man with a failing memory. “But what this report shows is that you have a blatant double standard: If Joe Biden is not prosecuted, then Donald Trump should not be prosecuted either.”
Mr. Biden’s allies have also doubled down on their campaign strategy, portraying the election as a choice between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump, whom they portray as a threat to democracy and who is facing impeachment over his own handling of classified documents. Mr. Trump, 77, recently puzzled the leaders of Hungary and Turkey, warning that the country was on the brink of World War II and claiming he defeated Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 election.
White House officials also quickly highlighted Mr. Trump’s comments at a campaign rally on Saturday, when he said that as president he had told the leaders of NATO nations that he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell.” Hell they will.” to countries that had not paid the money they owed the military alliance.
“Our nation should be focused on how Donald Trump is undermining the rule of law, democracy and our security as a nation,” Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said on ABC’s “This Week” as he asked about the special counsel’s report was asked.
But on Sunday it was clear that Mr Biden’s advisers and allies also felt a sense of urgency to attack Mr Hur’s report and persuade voters concerned about Mr Biden’s age.
“The real problem is not going away,” Quentin James, co-founder of Collective PAC, an organization that aims to elect black officials, said in an interview. “I think the only way to beat it is to go out there again and fight really hard. And we expect that from every other candidate, regardless of your age or experience.”
Mitch Landrieu, co-chairman of Mr. Biden’s campaign, said on “Meet the Press” that Mr. Biden has already traveled around the country throughout his presidency to explain his domestic policy plans.
“It is this ad hominem attack that calls into question the president’s effectiveness,” Mr. Landrieu said of Mr. Hur’s report. He added: “This guy is tough. He is smart. He’s on his game.”
The White House has also made a point of sending officials with prosecutorial backgrounds to attack the report’s credibility. A day after it was released, Vice President Kamala Harris called the report “baseless” and “politically motivated,” citing her time as a prosecutor.
Erica L. Green and Karoun Demirjian contributed reporting.