Joe Biden is outraged. "I know what the hell I'm doing. I'm president and I got this country back on its feet," says the 81-year-old, visibly upset, at a desk in the White House.
The Democrat scheduled a statement at government headquarters at extremely short notice to get his anger off his chest. Yes, he is an older man, but his memory is completely fine, he complains. Biden's attempt to convince the public of his suitability for the highest office in the state ends in a turbulent exchange of blows with journalists - and with further evidence that the oldest US president of all time actually mixes up a lot of things.
300 pages about the state of the US president
What caused his angry reaction? The explosive final report by special investigator Robert Hur on the documents affair that left Biden in need of an explanation about a year ago.
The report actually contains positive news for Biden: The fact that he kept confidential government documents privately years after he left the office of US vice president has no legal repercussions for the current president. Hur makes this clear in the first sentence of his final report.
But what follows in the more than 300 pages that follow is devastating: the most powerful man in the world is portrayed in great detail as a doddering old man, as a "well-meaning older man with a bad memory" who could hardly be proven to have malicious intent. In the middle of the campaign for a second term, this is politically devastating for Biden.
Doubts also exist within our own ranks
The Democrat wants to run again in the presidential election in November, and his age is already the biggest problem in his re-election campaign. Even in his own party, some question whether Biden is the right choice for one of the toughest jobs in the world at his age.
The Republicans, in turn, are already using Biden's constant blunders to launch constant political attacks against him. Biden delivers new fodder every few days. Within a week alone, Biden recently confused French President Emmanuel Macron with one of his predecessors, François Mitterrand - and shortly afterwards, former Chancellor Angela Merkel with the late former head of government Helmut Kohl.
The bitter verdict
And now this: After a 15-month investigation with 173 interviews with 147 witnesses and the review of millions of documents, a special investigator from the Justice Department comes to the highly official conclusion that the US President's mental fitness is in poor condition.
Biden himself answered questions from investigators for five hours on two days last October. Long recordings of Biden's conversations with his ghostwriter for a book published in 2017 were also evaluated. The material left investigators with a disastrous picture.
Special Counsel Hur's report states that Biden's memory revealed "significant limitations" and was sometimes "blurred." The conversations were “often painfully slow”. Biden had difficulty remembering events and sometimes even reading and reproducing his own notes.
"He no longer remembered when he was vice president, forgot when his term ended on the first day of the interview, and forgot when his term began on the second day of the interview." The president also couldn't remember when his son Beau died.
Biden is particularly upset about this during his appearance. “How the hell dare he bring that up,” he complains about the special prosecutor. The death of his son is one of the open wounds in Biden's life. He also rejects several allegations in the report - and all the doubts about his mental state.
But what was the report actually about? About a year ago, several tranches of confidential documents from Biden's time as vice president appeared in the Democrat's private rooms - including in the garage of his home in Wilmington.
Initially, employees came across documents in private offices, and later investigators were called in to search rooms and houses in various locations. Attorney General Merrick Garland ultimately appointed the special counsel to investigate the sensitive allegations against his own boss.
Garland - possibly in an attempt to show the greatest possible independence - chose as special prosecutor a former prosecutor who had been nominated for this position by then President Donald Trump. And he now delivered a report that in parts reads more like the evaluation of a mental competency test.
The explosive report
Special investigator Hur comes to the conclusion that no charges against Biden are justified in the documents affair. As a private person, the Democrat "intentionally kept secret materials" and sometimes shared them with his ghostwriter. Hur justifies the fact that this will have no legal consequences, among other things, with Biden's mental state.
"We also considered that Mr. Biden would likely portray himself in court as a pleasant, well-meaning, older man with poor memory, as he did during our questioning." It would probably be difficult to convince jurors that after his term in office they should find Biden - "a former president well into his 80s" - guilty of a crime that requires "a mental state of premeditation." That sits.
Investigators found, among other things, documents on Afghanistan that were classified as confidential in Biden's house in Wilmington - in a battered cardboard box, surrounded by all sorts of household items, such as a ladder, flower pots and decorative materials. Photos of this find and various others are included in the report. The White House had the opportunity to request redactions of the report in advance, but did not make use of it.
The ammunition for Trump
The matter is also politically sensitive for him because his likely challenger in the presidential election, his Republican predecessor Trump, was targeted by investigators because of similar allegations - and did not escape without indictment. Trump's case, of course, has a completely different dimension:
After leaving the White House, he stored a significantly larger amount of government documents in a private property - including documents with the highest level of secrecy, for example on the US's nuclear capabilities. Trump is also accused of knowingly hindering the investigation and trying to make material disappear with the help of his colleagues. He will have to answer for this in court from the end of May.
Trump is now - as expected and as before - railing against an alleged two-tier system in the US justice system. Biden's case is worse than his, and yet the president is spared. This message is likely to carry Trump through the election year - and exploit all the assessments of Biden's mental fitness for his own purposes. Trump himself constantly mixes up names.
The next mistake
Biden emphasizes several times that his case is in no way comparable to Trump's. He cooperated fully with the investigation, unlike Trump. There are no charges in his case either.
And then what shouldn't have happened happened: Biden was actually about to leave the room after his angry appearance when he stopped - and returned to the desk to answer another question about the conflict in the Middle East. In his reply, he makes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi the head of state of Mexico.