What to Know in Washington: Biden Assails Special Counsel Report

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President Joe Biden lambasted a special counsel report for describing him as an “elderly man with a poor memory” and chronicling repeated occasions where he struggled to recall basic facts.

The report from Special Counsel Robert Hur, who was investigating Biden’s handling of classified material, offers a jarring portrait of the president’s acuity. Biden, 81, is described forgetting when his term as vice president ended, the general timeframe in which his son Beau died from cancer, and the details of critical foreign policy debates during the Obama administration.

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
President Joe Biden answers questions about Israel after speaking about the Special Counsel report at the White House yesterday in a surprise last-minute addition to his schedule for the day.

The president summoned reporters for a hastily-arranged press conference last night where he forcefully — and at times angrily — insisted that his memory was “fine” and emphasized he was insulted by the portrait painted by a former US attorney appointed by Donald Trump.

“I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president, and I’ve put this country back on his feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden said.

However, Biden’s remarks were undercut by another high-profile gaffe involving a foreign leader when the president mistakenly referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the leader of Mexico. The misstep threatened to undermine his entire effort, and was immediately seized on by his political opponents. Akayla Gardner has more on the press conference.

Voters have indicated that concerns about Biden’s age rank among their biggest concerns heading into an expected 2024 rematch with Trump. Three-quarters of voters, including half of Democrats, said in an NBC News poll released earlier this week that they had concerns about Biden’s mental and physical health, Justin Sink reports.

Meanwhile, House Democrats defended Biden, insisting that they are comfortable with him and expressing optimism that they will retake the House in November. The president spoke to House Democrats yesterday at their 2024 Issues Conference, where lawmakers gathered in suburban Virginia to fine-tune their messaging before election season.

“President Joe Biden is a good man who’s been working hard to make life better for everyday Americans, and together we will finish the job,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

In response to questions about Biden’s recent slip-ups, the lawmakers said they’ve worked closely with the president and have found him to be a sharp policymaker. Democrats also emphasized Biden’s dominating win in the New Hampshire’s presidential primary, where his name wasn’t even on the ballot. Maeve Sheehey has more from the retreat.


  • The president will leave the White House for New Castle, Del. around 5:40 p.m., where he’ll arrive around 6:35 p.m.
  • Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby will hold a briefing around 1 p.m.


  • The House is out until Tuesday.
  • Senators meet to consider a $95 billion package of aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, with a procedural vote scheduled for about 7 p.m.
  • For more on the agenda read BGOV’s Congress Tracker.

News From the Campaign Trail

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP
Donald Trump speak during a Nevada Caucus Night watch party in Las Vegas on Feb. 8, 2024.

TRUMP dominated yesterday’s Nevada caucuses, notching a victory in a state that will be a critical general-election battleground. He will receive all of Nevada’s delegates after rival Nikki Haley did not participate.

  • The next major Republican contest is on Feb. 24 in South Carolina. Haley has sought to appeal to moderate voters and independents in hopes of chipping away at Trump’s lead in conservative South Carolina, but she still trails Trump by more than 30 percentage points in her home state, according to the RealClearPolitics. Read more.

ENERGY SECTOR DONORS have showered Trump’s candidacy with $7.37 million — nearly 10 times the amount of money the oil and gas industry has given Haley.

  • Despite record oil production and profits during his White House tenure, industry donors have given Biden very little — just $635,000 — according to an analysis from OpenSecrets.
  • Other major donors — particularly in finance, private equity, and venture capital — have opted instead to back Haley. Read more.

Also Happening on the Hill

Photographer: Tierney L. Cross/Bloomberg
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during a hearing on drug prices in Washington, DC on Thursday.

CEOS of Bristol Myers Squibb, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck, all declined to commit to lowering the list price of their drugs before facing market competition, despite pressure from high profile senators yesterday.

  • “Will you commit today at Bristol Myers Squibb to reduce the list price of Eliquis in the United States to the price that you charge in Canada, where you make a profit?” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) asked Bristol Myers Squibb CEO Chris Boerner during a hearing before the Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Read more.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WYO.) said he’ll offer an amendment to undue a pause on LNG-export licenses announced recently by the Biden administration. Read more.

HOUSE OVERSIGHT CHAIR JAMES COMER (R-KY.) ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to force TikTok to register as a foreign agent, a move that would place new scrutiny on the social media company’s ties to the Chinese government. Read more.

HOUSE JUDICIARY CHAIR JIM JORDAN (R-OHIO) is investigating why prosecutors charged a former IRS contractor with only one felony count even though he admitted to leaking tax returns of Trump and other wealthy Americans. Read more.

People, Power, and Politics

Photographer: Nathan Howard/Bloomberg
Demonstrators hold signs behind a supporter of former President Donald Trump outside the Supreme Court yesterday.

TRUMP found some unusual backers at the Supreme Court among the Democratic appointees in his bid to stay on Colorado’s 2024 primary ballot. Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson were some of the most skeptical of arguments put forth yesterday by Colorado voters seeking to keep Trump off the March 5 ballot. Read more.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said he played “hooky” from House Democrats’ retreat to attend the Supreme Court oral arguments. Read more.

JOE MALONEY, who spent three years with the Washington Commanders as vice president of public affairs and strategic communications, has joined the American Gaming Association senior vice president for strategic communications. Read more.

Defense & Foreign Affairs

VLADIMIR PUTIN said he would consider negotiations on the war in Ukraine if the US stops supplying weapons to Kyiv, but added that Russia hasn’t achieved its objectives in Ukraine yet.

  • The interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson last night is the first time Putin has given an interview to a western media figure since he ordered the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Read more.

UKRAINE’S AMBASSADOR to the US said her country is facing a “critical shortage” in military hardware even as she expressed optimism that US lawmakers would overcome their deadlock and deliver aid to her country. Read more.

BIDEN criticized the extent of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, as tension builds over Israeli plans to push into Rafah, where more than one million people have sought refuge.

  • “The conduct of the response in the Gaza Strip has been over the top,” Biden said yesterday at the White House. “There are a lot of innocent people who are starving. A lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying. And it’s got to stop.” Read more.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS will attend the 2024 Munich Security Conference on Feb. 15-17, where she will deliver a “major” foreign policy speech and meet with foreign leaders to advance on priorities, including Ukraine and the Middle East, the White House said in a statement. Read more.

What Else We’re Watching

THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION plans to launch a $5 billion semiconductor research consortium to bolster chip design and hardware innovation in the US and counter China’s efforts to capture the cutting edge of the industry. Read more.

THE WHITE HOUSE is considering restrictions on imports of Chinese “smart cars” and related components that would go beyond tariffs to address growing concerns about data security.

  • US officials are particularly concerned about the troves of data collected by so-called smart cars — which include EVs and other types of connected and autonomous vehicles — said the people, who were granted anonymity to discuss confidential conversations. Read more.

To contact the reporters on this story: Giuseppe Macri in Washington at gmacri@bgov.com; Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kayla Sharpe at ksharpe@bloombergindustry.com

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