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The report questioning Joe Biden’s memory was a “another log on a raging fire” of concern about his age that is threatening his hopes of a second term, a top Democrat strategist has said.
David Axelrod, one of the architects of Barack Obama’s victory in 2008, has claimed Robert Hur’s characterisation of the Democrat leader was “indisputably damaging” to Mr Biden.
The 388-page report, published on Thursday, found that the President’s memory had “significant limitations”. It said bringing a prosecution against him for failure to correctly store classified information would be difficult because a jury would view him as a “well-meaning” but “elderly” man.
The report was so scathing that, according to the Washington Post, even Donald Trump and some of his advisers questioned whether there was an ulterior motive.
Mr Biden also failed to quell questions over his mental robustness in a hastily-called press conference in which he appeared visibly frustrated.
While asserting that his memory is “fine” and he is “the most qualified person in the country” to be the US president, Mr Biden called the Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the “president of Mexico”.
Several Democrats have claimed Mr Hur’s investigation was partisan, highlighting he is a Republican who served as a US attorney in Maryland under the Trump administration.
“But whatever Hur’s motives”, Mr Axelrod wrote in a piece for CNN, “the seemingly gratuitous language in his report was more than offensive to the 81-year-old president”.
“It was another log on a raging fire that threatens to engulf Biden’s re-election”, he said.
Mr Axelrod added that concern about Mr Biden’s age, with every public slip-up seized upon and amplified by Republicans, is an “albatross” for his campaign.
On Friday night Mr Trump, the Republican frontrunner, latched onto concerns over Mr Biden’s age, joking that he “doesn’t know he’s alive”.
Calling for criminal prosecution into his mishandling of classified documents to be dropped, he told thousands of members of the National Rifle Association in Pennsylvania it was “nothing more than selective persecution of Biden’s political opponent, me.
“I don’t think it’s Biden, because I don’t think he knows he’s alive.”
Mr Trump, 77, is no stranger to making public gaffes, having last month confused his Republican rival Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
But Mr Axelrod says because he is “energetic” the concerns raised are less “profound” for him.
It comes as Democrats have said Mr Biden cannot shield from the public in light of the report and must start offering himself up for interviews and town halls.
South Carolina attorney Dick Harpootlian, a major donor to Mr Biden’s campaign, said the party leader needs to start preparing for a rematch with Mr Trump on the debate stage, telling Politico: “We oughta engage in it as much as we can.”