- By Sam Cabral & Madeline Halbert
- BBC News from Capitol Hill and New York
Democrats are defending President Joe Biden after a report on his handling of classified documents raised concerns about his age and mental health.
Mr Biden will not be charged for possessing classified documents, but the report describes him as a “well-intentioned old man with a bad memory”.
Vice President Kamala Harris slammed the explanation as “unnecessary, inaccurate and inappropriate.”
He also alleged that the lawyer was “clearly politically motivated”.
Robert Hurr, a Donald Trump appointee, was appointed last year to lead the Biden classified documents investigation.
He was picked by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in January as the judiciary faced criticism from Republicans over his appointment of a separate special counsel over Donald Trump's alleged mishandling of top-secret files.
But Mr Hare's publicly released statement included a White House letter saying comments about the president's memory should be edited “to be within the scope of your expertise and dispatch”.
Ms Harris, who previously worked as a lawyer, echoed that criticism at a news conference on Friday.
“The manner in which the President's conduct was characterized in that report could not be more factually incorrect and was clearly politically motivated,” he said.
“When it comes to a lawyer's role and responsibility in a situation like that, we should expect a high level of integrity.”
Democratic allies on Capitol Hill also told the BBC they believed Mr Harr's comments were outside the scope of the inquiry.
“I think that's a completely inappropriate way to approach the role of special counsel and special counsel,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon.
“It's unfortunate that it wandered into very inappropriate territory.”
Tina Smith of Minnesota called Mr Harr's comments “outrageous” and “disgusting”, accusing him of “blatantly politicizing” his role as special counsel.
Since launching his re-election campaign, Mr Biden has been dogged by concerns about his age and mental abilities.
He is 81, a few years older than the Republican front-runner, 77-year-old former President Donald Trump.
The report did little to assuage voters' concerns. It alleges that Mr Biden did not remember when his son Beau died of cancer or when he served as vice president during interviews with investigators.
But Democrats speaking to the BBC on Friday said they were not worried about the president's mental abilities.
Summarizing the takeaways from the report, Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia said: “No charges are recommended. Unusual comments one would normally expect in a careful and substantial report. Just noise in the end.”
Mr Ossoff, the youngest member of the Senate, insisted he had spent “considerable time” with the president in recent months.
“I found him to be sharp, focused, engaging, strong and capable,” she said.
Mr Ossoff's colleagues agreed, including Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who called the president “thoughtful and experienced” at a news conference on Friday.
Democrats have “full confidence” in the president, he said. “We want to stick with someone who understands what this country needs.”
But some of his colleagues across the aisle said Mr Harr's observations added fuel to a growing perception that Mr Biden was unfit for the job of president.
“He's trying to do the best he can and I'm starting to worry about his best,” North Carolina senator Thom Tillis told the BBC.
“I don't care if you're 78 or 178, if you're going to be the leader of the free world, you've got to be 100% on your game,” the moderate Republican said.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told the BBC that concerns about Mr Biden's age were an “enduring problem” for his re-election campaign.
Experts noted that despite Mr. Biden-like gaffes on the campaign trail, polls suggest that Mr. Trump has not faced much criticism from voters about his age.
In recent months, both Mr Biden and Mr Trump have made public errors, confusing the names of world leaders and US politicians on several occasions when speaking in public.
But Mr. Trump's bombastic style and “constant offensive posture” may make him feel like a more dynamic candidate, said Chris Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
Concerns about Mr Trump's age “don't seem to stick the same way”, he said.
But for Mr Biden, his campaign should focus on addressing the perception that he is mentally unfit for office.
“The report adds a sense of steepness [Biden’s] Efforts to overcome what will undoubtedly be a significant obstacle to his campaign,” Mr Boric said.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”