WASHINGTON — The Biden campaign and the White House have arrived at a tentative strategy for responding to special counsel Robert Hur’s report that dismisses questions about the president’s fitness for office: Attack Hur and the media coverage of the report.
White House counsel spokesman Ian Sams took issue with the press corps on the report’s cherry-picking findings in the morning after Biden and other top advisers lashed out at Hur for giving her inappropriate and excessive attention to his age. It was written by Hur to protect him from Republican political pressure.
“I know it’s hard to get through 400 full pages,” he said. “The report cites examples of how the president willfully withheld classified documents.”
Behind the scenes, both Biden’s White House advisers and his campaign were tougher. One Biden ally said the report angered some of his supporters and eventually led them to his defense.
“People who are Biden supporters think it’s a cheap shot and that he’s playing politics,” the ally said.
The simmering hostility of the White House to the press also spread to the public. One of Biden’s aides said the media was “shameful” in their handling of a highly sensitive political moment.
“Hur has failed to make his case, and he’s making partisan, personal and untrue attacks on Joe Biden,” said one aide, who requested anonymity to speak publicly about the inner workings of the president’s team. he said. “[He] He did it so the media would take the bait and none of you have learned anything since 2016.
The aide referred to another chilling episode in 2016, when then-FBI Director James Comey said he would not face any charges for using Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server, saying he was “extremely careless” in handling classified information. was holding
That assessment, and her decision to briefly revisit the investigation weeks before Election Day after the new disclosure of additional emails on a device belonging to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, has been an ongoing distraction for the Clinton campaign, and Democrats have seen it as a major contributing factor. He lost to Donald Trump in November.
“The media likes to have fun. They love drama. They don’t get it with Biden because he does his job and delivers to families. That’s why they treat partisanship as a reason to create a scandal,” said the aide. “I think at the end of the day, this election will be about someone who cares about the truth, who cares about their work, who makes people’s lives better, who follows the law and who is a decent person. And one that is the opposite of all that. Although you and your colleagues make no effort to focus on any of these.’
In the near term, the Biden campaign plans to rely on Democratic surrogates to accept Huron’s report — while attacking him for out-discussing Biden’s age, bolstering his firm decision not to indict Biden and differences over Trump’s handling of classified documents. .
Vice President Kamala Harris called the report “clearly politically motivated, gratuitous,” and said, “There could not be a more factual mischaracterization of the president’s behavior in this report.”
Biden has his team and the president himself he was not shy in the past they feel that the news in the press is more important than the noise. Now, as in the past, many aides have felt that because of the short attention spans of the media and the general public, they can escape difficult news cycles and focus on key issues such as the economy, abortion rights and risks to democracy. .
But Democratic allies have expressed concern that Republicans will now be emboldened to use the Hur report as political leverage. They will likely try to keep his damaging statements in the public debate during oversight hearings, potentially using it to revive impeachment investigations.
“They’re almost certainly going to want him to come to the hearings,” said a Democratic congressional aide.
Aides also never had a neat answer to voters’ concerns about age. Biden, the first lady and others have often said that with age comes experience and wisdom. The campaign recently sought to put Biden in more informal, unscripted settings that they felt could better tap into what has long been a political presence: his folksy, familiar and sometimes candid style.
They also recently tried to turn the issue of age and mental acuity against Trump, with Biden himself mocking the Republican nominee for confusing rival Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
A senior Biden campaign official said it’s not something Biden himself will continue to dwell on, though the campaign’s rapid response team will spread Trump’s gaffes on social media.
So far, nothing has moved the needle for voters, and other allies have suggested the campaign needs to take voters’ concerns more seriously. While Thursday was not the “nail in the coffin,” it revealed that campaign leaders had underestimated the challenge, one longtime ally said.
“They need to relax and get him out there,” the ally said. “The more people see it, the better they’ll feel.”