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Impeachment Today Podcast: All About Joseph Robinette Biden

Seriously, that's his middle name.

Posted on January 9, 2020, at 11:07 p.m. ET

Stephen Maturen / Getty Images

It's Thursday, January 9, 2020, 107 days since House Democrats began impeachment proceedings. Every morning, the Impeachment Today podcast helps you separate what’s real and groundbreaking from what’s just, well, bullshit.

You can listen to today's episode below, or check it out on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

It's Thursday, January 9th, 2020, 107 days since the house began its impeachment inquiry. And this is Impeachment Today.

Good morning, I'm Hayes Brown. reporter and editor here at BuzzFeed News. It looks like we aren't going to war with Iran in the next few days at least, so everyone's attention is back on impeachment. Yay. I guess. Okay. Today we're talking to BuzzFeed News politics reporter Nidhi Prakash about the main target of Trump's Ukraine scheme former vice president Joe Biden. But before we get to all that, let's catch up on what happened yesterday.

Real talk friends, not much of an update for you today and that is starting to become pretty annoying to some people, not me clearly, but people. Speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi says that she wants to see in writing the way the Senate will conduct the impeachment trial before she sends the two articles of impeachment across the Capitol building. Or as she put it on Wednesday evening.

Nancy Pelosi:

Do you listen when I speak? I said when we saw what the arena is that we would be sending members in, then we would send over the articles. We haven't seen that, so I don't have any more times I'd have to say that and how many times you want to ask it. But when we see the arena in which this will happen we will then be prepared to send articles, the pay fors, and the managers.

Hayes Brown:

That strategy has been in place since the articles charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress first pass in the house last month. So far Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has led any effort to let that change his plans for the trial glide off him like water off a duck's back.

Mitch McConnell:

Coronation for this shameless game playing is his bigger policy wanted leverage, leverage to reach into the Senate and dictate our trial proceedings to us. Now I made clear from the beginning that no such leverage exists. There will be no haggling with a house over Senate procedure. We will not say it's our authority to try this impeachment. The house Democrat's turn is over. The Senate has made its decision.

HB:

McConnell said earlier this week that he has the votes to move forward without an agreement with Democrats on witnesses during the trial. That means the question of whether witnesses at the White House blocked from testifying the house inquiry will be subpoenaed during the Senate trial will be saved for later. That's exactly what minority leader Chuck Schumer was trying to avoid. But some Senate Democrats have come out to say that they just want to get this dang party started already.

Richard Blumenthal:

We are reaching a point where the article's of impeachment should be sand and we should have votes on whether witnesses will be called. The cover up that senator McConnell is engineering has to be broken with some plan and my colleague will put on record whether they are going to be part of aiding and abetting the Trump-McConnell cover-up.

HB:

That was Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking to reporters at the Capitol. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was a bit blunter when talking with Politico. She said the longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. So if it's serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn't, don't send it over.

But the ball is still in Pelosi's court with house Democrats sticking with her and her plan. And honestly, there's not much that the Senate can do about it no matter how much they want to try. And now to put a cold hard number on this whole WTF, we have today's reading from our Nixometer.

On our scale, a zero is a normal day in a normal White House, 10 is president Richard Nixon resigning and flying away in Marine One.

And this morning we're at a 7.7. Folks that they're getting impatient and there's a clear worry among Senate Democrats that holding things up too long could backfire. And McConnell seeming like he's going to get his way, makes the acquittal of the president he's predicted all the more likely.

HB:

Okay. After the break, we talked to Nidhi about former vice president Joe Biden, the political rival that Trump tried to kneecap via Ukraine. Meet you back here in a few.

All right. It is time for this fucking guy where we zoom in on a person that is shaping the impeachment. Today it's the main man himself, former vice president, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. whose middle name I accidentally said was Robert in yesterday show. That's right. His middle name is actually Robinette sorry, Joe, if you're listening. Anyway here to give us all of the T on the former VP is BuzzFeed News politics reporter Nidhi Prakash. Thank you Nidhi for joining us.

Nidhi Prakash:

Right. So let's rewind a second. This all goes back to Trump claiming that Biden used his position as VP to help a Ukrainian energy company that was paying his son Hunter.

HB:

Right.

NP:

Trump's claim was that Biden was trying to do that by pushing to get rid of a Ukrainian prosecutor.

HB:

And so that's not really the case, but where did I even get this idea? I think he got it from a speech that Joe Biden gave that says asking Ukraine to investigate him was totally legit. What happened there?

NP:

Right, exactly. So yeah, just to be super clear, there is no actual evidence that surface that Biden ever did that that he did inappropriately use his position in the way that Trump is suggesting. But basically Trump's been really generally vague on the specifics, but he's repeatedly brought up this one speech and Biden talked about threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees from the US to the Ukraine if the government there didn't dismiss the prosecutor. And so he said this at a event sponsored by the council on foreign relations and this is what he said. "I said, we're leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor's not fired, you're not getting the money." Well son of a bitch, he got fired.

HB:

That is the most Joe Biden way of telling that story possible. And we had Miriam Elder on before who basically said, yeah, that's not really how it went down. But that's just Biden being Biden.

NP:

Right, exactly. I mean typically if there was pressure internationally for this prosecutor to be dismissed because he was ineffective in investigating corruption.

HB:

Okay. So we talked about Joe's son Hunter on this show, what feels like forever ago, back in our second episode, what is Joe Biden had to say about Hunter's work in Ukraine given that it kind of wasn't a really good look for him.

NP:

So from the get go, he's been fiercely defensive of his son. So basically he's kind of repeated that Hunter Biden did nothing wrong. And he's pointing as well to an interview that Hunter Baden did a couple of months ago. It was a television interview where he said that serving on the board was poor judgment, but that he did nothing wrong at all. So something that Biden said to me while I was on the campaign trail with him last month, the month before, he said the appearance looked bad and he acknowledged that and that's it. That's all I'm going to talk about.

HB:

Wow. Didn't he actually almost get into a fight with a dude about the whole Ukraine thing?

NP:

Yeah, that's the thing, right, is that he seemed genuinely kind of thrown for a loop that a Voda at one of these events in Iowa was bringing this up at all. That kind of escalated pretty quickly into him kind of calling the guy names and challenging him to a pushup competition among other things.

HB:

Joe. Oh Joe. So since the first reports that a whistleblower had some tea to spill, we've learned a ton about the whole Ukraine scheme. How has Biden himself reacted as more news has come out in these last few months and his name has been constantly been thrown around as we've been talking impeachment.

NP:

Yeah, I mean he just keeps repeating that for him to engage and for him to talk more about this would be for Trump to succeed in changing the conversation from him and from the impeachment inquiry. The actual focus of the impeachment inquiry, which of course is Trump. So he's repeated that over and over. I mean, he's said that everyone who's worked with me at that time said that I'm an honorable man and that I did nothing wrong. He goes through the defense of his son and that's kind of where it stops.

HB:

I seem to remember while we were on break, there was something about whether or not Joe Biden would actually testify in the Senate trial if somehow they managed to get the votes to subpoena him. What's his stance on that right now?

NP:

Yeah, it's interesting. So initially he sort of like outright was like, no, absolutely not. I will not comply with that. And then-

HB:

Wow, a mood yikes.

NP:

Right. It was a mood, it was a mood. Pretty soon after that he sort of like gently started walking it back and he was like, well I guess the thing is that I can't see a legal way for the Republicans to subpoena me as part of this investigation. And then, which again changed pretty soon after that too. Of course, I'll comply with a subpoena if Congress issues one.

HB:

Oh Joe, I keep repeating that because he's just the most Joe Biden to ever Joe Biden in all of these anecdotes that you're telling me. So he's currently polling and has been pulling as the front runner in the Democratic primary. How have his opponents been treating the impeachment process? Have they been supporting him, attacking him on Ukraine? What's the sitch?

NP:

It's been a very clear thing that all of the other candidates have kind of fallen in line behind him. None of them will go there. They're all, I mean, the standard line from all of them is Joe Biden is an honorable man I will not engage on this topic kind of thing. So they have kind of fallen in line to the point though where I tried to ask Senator Cory Booker just about whether Trump was potentially succeeding in just winning the messaging war around this even about whether he thought Biden was responding necessarily like a sufficiently fluent way about like when these questions come up. And he just absolutely didn't want to engage even with the question of is he handling it well, not whether he did anything wrong or not. So they really kind of like hotline, I think, each made a decision to not engage at all.

HB:

So it's actually really surprising to me, especially as heated a contest as this, that nobody is using the impeachment thing to go after the front runner. It seems like it would be an easy play.

NP:

Yeah, I mean so far that's the case. We'll see what happens when it lands on the Senate and two of the other front runners will be called back to the Senate when that happens, which could definitely change some of that calculus.

HB:

Okay. I'm actually glad you brought that up. So what do you think has the impeachment process hurt Biden at all politically in his quest for the White House? Or has it may be helped him?

NP:

It's hard to say definitively, but I do think that if anything, it potentially has sort of given him another point to shore up a strategy that he already had, which was to kind of run this as a general election campaign where it's like him versus Trump. So this very clearly is another example of like, well, Trump's trying to go off to me because I'm his real competitive kind of thing. And that's very much like where a lot of his framing of this has kind of gone.

NP:

So in that sense it's kind of played into that for him. What happens in the Senate, whether he actually does get subpoenaed and has it gets dragged in there, we'll have to see how that goes down. But if he doesn't get subpoenaed and called in there, it could also work to his advantage because two of his main competitors will be tied up in the Senate, which basically means he'll have Iowa to himself to campaign.

HB:

Right. I mean, I know that Elizabeth Warren now has Julian Castro who can go out there for her, but still it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. You've been out on the campaign trail a lot. Have people been bringing up impeachment and Biden to you as like a factor in their thinking during the primary?

NP:

So in general, no, it's not something that voters out there bringing up kind of organically except for at that one particular event I was talking about earlier where a voter did kind of get up in Biden's face and was like bringing up the accusation but also more broadly kind of questioning, I guess the implication of nepotism, which is something that Biden hasn't really addressed. And it's something that potentially could come up again.

So I think when there is a sort of a flare up like that, it's something that has definitely come up. And then for the next two days after that over, that's what we're talking about and all of events. Right. And it was more about like how he was handling it and how he seemed to kind of thrown off and became quite aggressive rather than anyone sort of really thinking that there was any misconduct. It was voters saying, well we need him to come up with a better strategy to handle this.

HB:

And it kind of seems like it has. Okay. One more thing on Biden's actual policies. I feel like we've been talking a lot about foreign policy with the whole Iran thing in the news, which has people looking at Biden's foreign policy credentials, his vote for the Iraq war, et cetera. What do you think has the impeachment saga and its focus on Ukraine been at all a part of the conversation with voters when it comes to Biden and foreign policy?

NP:

I mean, I think that he has definitely, especially in the past sort of month or two, been leaning on his foreign policy kind of experience. It's something that he's kind of in a very strategic way brought up. So, I don't know if everyone remembers Trump's sort of slightly disastrous visit to the NATO summit and basically all these other foreign leaders kind of making fun of him. It's basically as soon as Trump landed back from that, Biden released an attack ad talking about how embarrassing that was. So like he's kind of positioning himself around that topic and yeah, I mean, I think as far as foreign affairs coming up more and more often, I think that does play into his strategy.

HB:

Okay. So last thing, we're going to time warp into the future. It's a year from now, the 2020 election in the rear view mirror, what's Joe Biden up to?

NP:

That is a great question. I think he's just Bidening, I mean wherever he is really that is a great constant of life is that he will, Joe Biden will continue to Biden.

HB:

That is a great answer. So thank you Nidhi so much for taking the time and breaking down the Bideness all of it all for us.

NP:

Thanks for having me.

HB:

Okay. It's time for the latest edition of our newest segment, Trial Watch 2020, where we run down what's happening next in the Senate impeachment trial.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell now says that he's got the votes to start up the trial whenever the house sends over the two articles of impeachment. But speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi wants to see the actual text of how the setup looks on paper before she transmits those bad boys over to the Senate. So we are essentially still in the same spot we've been in for over three weeks. We will hopefully have more for you tomorrow, but for now this has been Trial Watch 2020.

Okay, that is it for today. Tomorrow we'll tell you everything you need to know about John Bolton, his legendary mustache, which even has its own Twitter account, and everything he may or may not be ready to tell the Senate if he actually testifies. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Impeachment Today on the the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you go to your mic's embodied voice, and up maybe leave us a rating and review. Also, tell your friends about the show as we all figure this out together.

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