Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana), who joined Capito in a February meeting with Biden on Covid relief, said he saw nothing strange: “I visited him in the Oval Office and he seemed to be well prepared and knowledgeable. for the meeting “.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden, who stuttered as a child, resisted Trump’s attacks on his faculties, discarding clips of his verbal tics and minor memory lapses. Trump’s allies are still trying to paint Biden as a deterioration in office, even after he largely stayed on message answering questions at a 62-minute press conference Thursday. While the more centrist Republican senators interviewed this week would not criticize their colleagues for floating unsubstantiated theories about Biden’s health, their various reactions show a lasting gulf between Republicans who publicly emulate Trump’s policy and those who back away. of that.
Of course, some pro-Trump Republican senators are willing to cross that line.
“It’s sad to see people get old,” said Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), a Trump ally who has been one of Biden’s most strident critics. Johnson added that he shares concerns about the president’s fitness: “I think a lot of Americans do, from what we’ve seen. It’s sad.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) appears to share similar concerns, although he has yet to share them publicly. He texted an acquaintance earlier this month to say that Biden reminds him of someone he knows who started developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“Of course, I have no medical training and I cannot diagnose a condition, especially if it is someone with whom I do not interact personally on a daily basis, but from a distance I can see that he is not doing well,” Lee wrote, according to private communications. reviewed by POLITICO. “Sad. And disturbing.”
Lee’s office declined to comment further on those messages.
Since taking office, Biden has nurtured relationships with a small group of moderate Republican senators., courting some Republican votes for his various legislative priorities. And while those Republicans were frustrated that Biden passed a $ 1.9 trillion Covid aid bill without their votes, apparently they found him in the know during your personal interactions.
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), A physician, said Biden “listened very carefully and appropriately” during their recent in-person meeting. When asked if he disagrees with the assessment of some fellow Republicans who express more concerns, Cassidy responded, “I’m just commenting on what I see.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Thom Tillis (RN.C.), who also joined the February meeting in the Oval Office with Biden, echoed that sentiment. And a third Republican senator in that two-hour meeting went even further.
“My experience in that setting was that the president performed well,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). During his conversation with the 10 Republican senators who visited the White House, Moran recalled, the president did not trust his staff or the vice president for information.
Several pro-Trump senators steered clear of Biden’s health in interviews and focused their criticism on his agenda.
“What worries me in the Biden administration are the leftist policies that are being implemented in the first months in office,” said Senator Ted Cruz (Republican of Texas).
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Described Biden’s delay in holding a press conference before Thursday as “weird” and “weird.” When asked if that relates to his health, the prospective 2024 presidential contender objected: “I don’t know the answer to that, and frankly, I don’t think it really matters.”
One of the 10 Republican senators who sought the February Oval Office meeting with Biden also declined to comment on the president’s performance.
“I’m not going there,” Sen. Mike Rounds (RS.D.) said. “I’ll focus on the real things he’s doing.”
After Thursday’s presidential press conference, Trump allies continued to question Biden’s insight. “A president with cognitive impairment is a national security risk,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted.. “It’s time to stop dancing for that.”
Biden “struggled to get ahead” Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) tweeted, who previously served as a White House physician for Trump and former President Barack Obama.
A Pentagon inspector general report recently concluded that Jackson abused alcohol and behaved inappropriately around women while working in the White House.
The White House declined to comment on Republicans’ claims about Biden’s health. But in the past, Biden’s campaign officials have dismissed such speculation as irresponsible nonsense.
In particular, ABC News reported last fall that the Department of Homeland Security had issued a bulletin warning that Russia was spreading disinformation about Biden’s mental health in an attempt to influence the 2020 elections.
Trump answered similar questions about his health during his time in office, including after an episode towards the end of his term in which he staggered unsteadily down a ramp after giving a speech at the United States Military Academy in West Point. In New York. Trump’s apparent instability on the ramp, shortly after his 74th birthday, spawned trending Twitter hashtags such as “TrumpIsUnwell” and “TRUMPstroke.”
Biden also mentioned Trump’s health to reporters after the ramp incident. “Look how he steps and look how I step. Watch how I run down the ramps and he trips over the ramps. Come on, ”said the then Democratic candidate.
In an interview Monday with Newsmax, Trump responded, calling Biden’s downfall “terrible.” Trump complained that the “lamestream media” largely failed to address his successor’s stumble and compared the media coverage he received after the West Point moment to the current attention Biden is receiving.
“[T]The last thing I wanted to do was walk around, like Biden did, ”Trump said.
Christopher Cadelago contributed reporting.