Vice President Kamala Harris slammed the report by a Justice Department special counsel into Joe Biden’s mishandling of classified documents that raised questions about the president’s memory.
Ms Harris called the report “politically motivated” and “gratuitous,” as the White House said the president would take steps to safeguard classified materials during presidential transitions.
The report from Robert Hur, the former Maryland US Attorney, found evidence that the president wilfully held onto, and shared with a ghost-writer, highly classified information.
However, he laid out why he did not believe the evidence met the standard for criminal charges, including a high probability that the Justice Department would not be able to prove Mr Biden’s intent beyond a reasonable doubt.
The White House has said Mr Biden erred in having the documents in his home and Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, said on Friday that the president would soon name a task force “to ensure that there are better processes in place” to protect classified materials when administrations change.
It noted that Mr Biden could not recall defining milestones in his own life such as when his son Beau died or when he served as vice president.
Asked whether the White House would release a copy of the transcript of Mr Biden’s interview with Mr Hur that could dispute Mr Hur’s characterisations, Mr Sams said parts of it were classified, but that if parts could be declassified, “we’ll take a look at that and make a determination”.
At an event at the White House, Ms Harris said that as a former prosecutor, she considered Mr Hur’s comments “gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate”.
She noted that Mr Biden’s two-day sit-down with Mr Hur occurred just after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, where more than 1,200 people were killed and about 250 were taken hostage, including many Americans.
Ms Harris said: “It was an intense moment for the commander in chief of the United States of America.”
She added that “the way that the president’s demeanour in that report was characterised could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous”.
Ms Harris concluded saying a special counsel should have a “higher level of integrity than what we saw”.
Her comments came a day after Mr Biden insisted that his “memory is fine” and grew visibly angry at the White House, as he denied forgetting when his son died.
Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
Mr Sams suggested that the political environment led Mr Hur, who was appointed as US attorney by former President Donald Trump, to include the comments.
“There’s an environment that we are in, that generates a ton of pressure, because you have congressional Republicans, other Republicans, attacking prosecutors that they don’t like,” he said.