House Republicans subpoena White House aides over Biden’s cognitive state

For all the latest developments in Congress, follow WTOP Capitol Hill Correspondent Mitchell Miller at Today on the Hill.

Exactly two weeks ago, the 2024 presidential race was totally upended in a matter of seconds, when during the first televised debate of the year, President Joe Biden stumbled into a meandering sentence that ended with a pause and then, “Look … we finally beat Medicare.”

It was a stunning moment, all the more surprising to many Democrats since the president had holed up with advisers for days at Camp David, preparing for his faceoff with former President Donald Trump.

The debate performance was a self-inflicted wound.

The White House wanted the debate and thought it would help the president build momentum as the campaign started to heat up. Instead, it has put President Biden’s every public appearance under intense scrutiny, caused a growing number of House Democrats to call for him to end his run for the White House and led to collective political malaise in the Democratic Party.

Even Democrats agree, it was much, much more than a “bad night.” It was arguably the most seismic moment of any presidential debate in U.S. history.

Will he stay or will he go?

Biden insists he is in the race for the long haul, and after a slow reaction to the debate debacle, the White House has scheduled a flurry of public events designed to show that he’s still on his game.

His letter to congressional Democrats on Monday was designed to short-circuit calls for him to step aside. But after House and Senate Democrats met behind closed doors on Tuesday, the unease on Capitol Hill remains palpable.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has decided not to talk about it publicly, saying only, “I’m with Joe.”

Democratic lawmakers have often scurried away from reporters or made noncommittal statements when asked directly if they believe Biden is the best candidate to field in November.

Former House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi cracked open the door for the president to reconsider his plans in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run,” she said. “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision because time is running short.”

If he does change his position, he will no doubt need a nudge from Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who until this point have been largely listening to lawmakers.

Jeffries reportedly told some lawmakers this week he plans to relay their concerns to the president.

While the White House wants to put the political drama behind, that’s not going to happen. Actor George Clooney, a longtime Biden supporter, made that clear with an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday, calling for the president to step aside.

Republicans target President Biden’s health

Former President Trump has taken a few shots at the president, but has largely left Democrats to stew over their situation ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention.

But on Wednesday, the Republican-led House Oversight Committee issued subpoenas for several White House aides, seeking their testimony on the president’s cognitive state. The subpoenas have been sent to first lady Jill Biden’s senior adviser, Anthony Bernal, White House deputy chief of staff Annie Tomasini and White House senior adviser Ashley Williams.

“President Biden is clearly unfit for office, yet his staff are trying to hide the truth from the American people,” said Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chairman of the committee.

Republicans will no doubt continue to focus on the president’s age and mental acuity throughout the campaign if he remains the Democrats’ presidential candidate.

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Mitchell Miller

Mitchell Miller has worked at WTOP since 1996, as a producer, editor, reporter and Senior News Director. After working "behind the scenes," coordinating coverage and reporter coverage for years, Mitchell moved back to his first love -- reporting. He is now WTOP's Capitol Hill reporter.

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