Joe Biden made a conditional call Tuesday to impeach President Donald Trump over his reported prodding of the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son.
“It is time for this administration to stop stonewalling and provide the Congress with all the facts it needs, including a copy of the formal complaint made by the whistleblower, and it’s time for the Congress to fully investigate the conduct of this president,” the Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president said during a brief news conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
If the president fails to comply, Biden added, he “will leave Congress in my view with no choice but to initiate impeachment. That would be a tragedy, but a tragedy of his own making.”
Biden’s statement, which follows calls for impeachment from other Democratic candidates and members of Congress, escalates a political fight involving his family. The increased pressure is tied to reporting over the last week about a phone call Trump had in July with Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky, which reportedly alarmed a whistleblower in the US intelligence community. In that call, the Wall Street Journal first reported, Trump pressed Zelensky to have his government investigate Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son who had been on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while Biden was in the White House. During the same period this summer, the US held up military aid to Ukraine, which Trump confirmed Tuesday came at his direction, raising concerns that he was using the money as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.
“I knew when I decided to run, this president would attack me and anyone else who he thought would be a threat to his winning again,” Biden said Tuesday.
“I can take the political attacks. They’ll come and they’ll go, and in time they’ll soon be forgotten,” he later added. “But if we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever.”
The number of Democrats in Congress calling for Trump’s impeachment has jumped since the first reporting of the call with Ukraine’s president, and they now include many Democrats who narrowly won Republican districts last fall. Other Democratic presidential candidates also have sharpened their calls for impeachment. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Beto O’Rourke have each in the last day pressed House Democratic leadership to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.
Biden has been hesitant to unequivocally back impeachment. After the first reports of the phone call last week, Biden declined to comment to reporters at a campaign event in Iowa. His team put out a more forceful statement Friday night, but the questions consumed his appearance Saturday at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines. As he arrived at a pregame rally with supporters, Biden jabbed a finger in the face of a Fox News reporter who asked if he had spoken with his son about overseas business dealings.
“You should be asking him the question,” Biden protested, referring to Trump. “Why is he on the phone with a foreign leader, trying to intimidate a foreign leader, if that’s what happened.”
Biden's remarks Tuesday were more direct and went a bit further than what he told reporters Saturday when asked about impeachment.
“Depending on what the House finds, he could be impeached, but I’m not making that judgment now,” Biden said. “The House should investigate. This appears to be an overwhelming abuse of power.”
A moment later, Biden added: “I’m calling for the president to release the transcript of the call, let everybody hear what it is, let the House see it, and see what he did. That’s what I’m calling for.”
In the days since then, Biden’s campaign has sent a flurry of fundraising appeals to supporters based around the Trump allegations. “Look — we have Trump scared,” Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz said in a Saturday email. “He isn’t calling on foreign leaders to investigate any other candidates.”
Impeachment aside, the Ukraine story also has inspired an escalation in Biden’s tone against Trump. Though he frames his campaign as a battle for the soul of the nation and to rescue the country from Trump’s nationalist hold, Biden had reservations about being so bombastic about it. At an event earlier this month in New Hampshire, he recalled advising Hillary Clinton’s team that she should not, in a 2016 debate two days after Trump’s comments about assaulting women surfaced via an old Access Hollywood recording, attack Trump on the matter.
At the Steak Fry this past weekend, following Trump’s suggestive tweets about the Biden family, Biden uncorked a new line meant to assert that he’s the Democrat whom the president fears most and that he’s ready for the fight.
“Trump’s doing this,” Biden said Saturday, “because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum.”