LEESBURG, Va. — Speaking to a gathering of House Democrats, President Joe Biden addressed a special counsel’s decision not to charge him for his handling of classified documents, declaring that “this matter is now closed.”
“I was pleased to see they reached the conclusion I knew all along they would: There were no charges brought in this case,” Biden said at the House Democrats’ annual policy retreat at the Lansdowne Resort in northern Virginia.
“This matter is now closed. I will continue to do what I’ve always done: stay focused on my job,” he said.
The president’s remarks to a ballroom full of House Democratic lawmakers and staffers came less than two hours after special counsel Robert Hur released a much-anticipated report on his investigation into Biden’s handling of classified material. While Hur did not charge Biden, his report stated that Biden’s practices “present serious risks to national security” and that Biden portrayed himself as an “elderly man with a poor memory.”
Addressing Democrats, Biden said that the probe spanned more than 40 years, dating back to when he became a senator: “I was a kid. I was a kid 29 years old.” And he said he was interviewed by Hur’s team during a stressful period, shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel.
“The special counsel acknowledged I cooperated completely. I did not throw up any roadblocks. I sought no delays. In fact, I was so determined to get special counsel what they needed,” Biden told the room. “I went forward with a five-hour in-person interview over the two days of October the 9th — 8th and 9th — last year, even though Israel had just been attacked by Hamas on the 7th.”
“I was in the middle of handling an international crisis. But I was especially pleased to see the special counsel made clear the stark differences between this case and Donald Trump,” who is facing dozens of charges in an unrelated classified documents case.
Pivoting from the Hur report to the stakes of the 2024 election, Biden rallied Democrats as they seek to win just a handful of seats needed to reclaim control of the House majority this fall. He praised them for staying united this week to defeat the GOP impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the GOP’s Israel-only aid package that did not include money for Ukraine, Taiwan or the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“All of this just shows that when we’re united, we can beat House Republicans in their cynical political games,” Biden said.
Senate GOP leaders, meanwhile, walked away from a bipartisan asylum and border deal this week that they had helped negotiate, giving Democrats an opening to go on offense on a usually vexing campaign issue.
“The events of this week have once again established that there’s a clear contrast between House Democrats and our extreme MAGA Republican counterparts,” Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said at the retreat. “House Democrats will continue to choose commonsense solutions to solving problems on behalf of hardworking American families. House Republicans continue to choose chaos.”
With the Hur report highlighting the 81-year-old Biden’s memory lapses, the president sought Thursday to assuage nagging concerns about his advanced age, fitness for office and lackluster poll numbers that risk dragging down congressional Democrats.
During campaign events Wednesday, Biden twice mentioned the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl rather than former Chancellor Angela Merkel while recounting a 2021 conversation. It marked the second time this week Biden had recalled speaking with a European leader who had died years earlier.
And during his televised opening remarks to Democrats Thursday, Biden again made two minor gaffes. “I said I’m gonna be a president for everybody, whether you live in a red state or a green state,” Biden said, rather than “red or blue” state. And instead of saying Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case, Biden appeared to say “Roe v. Word.”
But after those public remarks, Biden held a closed-door question-and-answer period with Democratic lawmakers that received positive reviews.
“He did so well in this discussion with members,” Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., a top GOP target this fall, told NBC News. “He’s very sharp, no memory issues, and his only stumbling is when he trips over words consistent with his lifelong speech impediment.”
The House Democrats’ campaign chief this cycle, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, said some Democrats facing tough races, known as frontliners, may campaign with Biden while others may not.
“So we expect that candidates are going to run campaigns based on what they think is right for their district. … Each of these districts is very different,” DelBene said.
Asked about whether he’s concerned that young and Black voters are souring on Biden, one of Biden’s closest allies rejected the notion.
“When I talk to those young people, they are all in for Joe Biden. And I keep hearing that he’s lost the youth vote. I keep hearing he’s lost the Black vote. South Carolina increased Black participation in their primary by 30%. And Joe Biden came out with 96% of the vote,” Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters at the issues conference.
“The proof is in the pudding,” added the longtime South Carolina congressman, who is 83 years old.
After Republican leaders abandoned the Senate border deal this week, the Biden administration signaled it’s considering taking executive action to halt record illegal migration across the southern border, U.S. officials told NBC News.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com