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'Need a President who is mentally fit': US official calls for Biden's removal from office

A 388-page counsel report released last week said Biden mishandled classified documents, describing him as a "well-meaning, elderly man with poor memory". Biden's recent gaffes have raised concerns among Democrats and a majority of Americans find him too old to run for re-election.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: February 14, 2024 16:36 IST
US, Joe Biden, mental health concerns
Image Source : AP (FILE) US President Joe Biden.

Washington: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, called on US Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday to invoke the 25th Amendment against President Joe Biden and remove him from office, saying that the 81-year-old President was unable to perform the duties of the job and his mental health is a serious concern, according to Fox News.

Morrisey's remarks come after a 388-page counsel report was released last week which described Biden as a "well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory" while saying he mishandled classified documents on US foreign policy in Afghanistan when he was Vice President. Biden has fought back aggressively against the characterisation, describing his memory as "fine". Republicans in the House of Representatives were quick to call the Democratic president "certainly unfit for the Oval Office."

"President Biden’s cognitive decline is of great concern to Americans, especially during these times that our nation is facing crisis after crisis both here and abroad. We need a president who is mentally fit," Morrisey wrote in a letter to Harris. "For too long, Americans have had to stand by and watch as their President has experienced a profound cognitive decline."

"Over the last few months alone, President Biden has mixed up world leaders and political figures, strained to address basic issues in public speeches, and wandered out of events in a disoriented state. These serious mental missteps have equally serious consequences," Morrisey added, saying that Special Counsel Robert Hur's report "paints a clear picture of a President who is not up for the job".

Hur's damaging report, stemming from a yearlong probe into Biden's mishandling of classified documents, said the President would face no charges partly because his defense would possibly be that "Mr Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory."

The 25th Amendment was passed by Congress in 1965 to clarify presidential succession following the assassination of former President Kennedy, which grants the vice president and the Cabinet to remove a president from office. However, that power was not used but was floated by anti-Trump critics following the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

Concerns over Biden's mental health

Biden has raised concerns after a series of verbal mixups, at times confusing the names of world leaders during his tenure at the White House. A majority of Americans in most polls believe the president is too old to run for re-election. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that 78 per cent of respondents - including 71 per cent of Democrats - think Biden is too old to work in government.

In contrast, some political experts say, the White House did not address the accusations quickly or directly enough, or mount a coordinated pushback, at least at first. "What we've seen from this White House is in a lot of ways attempting to do business as usual, to overcome adversity and bad narratives by ignoring them," said Samuel Woolley, director of the University of Texas at Austin's propaganda research lab.

The White House and campaign aides say they will handle concerns about Biden's age in 2024 by highlighting his accomplishments in office, including strong jobs growth and ambitious infrastructure spending programs. "We're going to continue to focus on what this president has been able to get done," White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday. That strategy, so far, has not quelled criticism or concerns about the president's age.

Biden's response to age concerns

Hours after the special counsel's report was released last week, Biden held a late-night, angry, emotional back-and-forth with reporters about his memory, which he said was "fine." During those remarks he appeared to confuse the presidents of Mexico and Egypt. Biden made the decision to make the public remarks, the White House said.

The next day, Vice President Kamala Harris, White House spokesperson Ian Sams, who works with the White House counsel's office, and others denounced the report as wrong and politically motivated. Some in the president's party have lingering misgivings about Biden running for a second term, after which he will be 86, and the report may have only exacerbated those worries.

A top Biden fundraiser said that his support for Biden was unaffected by the special counsel's report, but that the campaign seems confounded by the issue and that the last several days may have only reinforced concerns about Biden's age. The age issue is "tough" for Democrats, he said.

Other elected officials have also called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked after the release of the special counsel report, mostly Republicans including Senator Josh Hawley, and Representatives Claudia Tenney and Guy Reschenthaler.

Biden was seen in a recent video struggling to remember the name of Palestine-based militant group Hamas, when asked about the discussions between the group and Israel over the captured hostages amid the ongoing war in Gaza, going so far as to call it "opposition" during a stumbling speech. Prior to that, Biden stunned the world when he claimed he met a French president who had died around three decades ago.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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