LAS VEGAS – Joe Biden, who joined the Senate in January 1973 just as the Watergate scandal mushroomed, said he is optimistic about the chances of President Trump’s removal from office once the House passes impeachment articles over the Ukraine military aid affair.
Biden, 76, extensively discussed impeachment-related hearings now in the House, during a Saturday campaign stop, three months out from Nevada’s Feb. 22 caucuses — the third Democratic nominating contest of the 2020 cycle.
“I’m not so sure that the Senate is not going to hold a real trial,” the former vice president told a crowd of about 300, rebutting concerns that Senate Republicans would try to limit the time-length and scope.
“Everybody says. ‘It doesn’t matter, they’re not going to convict.’ Well guess what? As the American public learns more information, you’re going to find it’s going to have an impact on what your constituency says to them,” Biden said.
The former vice president condemned Trump for holding up aide to Ukraine that Congress approved so that Ukrainians are “able to protect themselves” from Russia.
“Ukrainians are being killed in the Donbass right now by Russians right now as I speak, dead, being killed,” Biden said. “And he said, ‘I’m gonna hold up the aid’ — and I’m paraphrasing all the witnesses — ‘unless you announce you’re going to investigate Biden.’”
On a July call with the Ukranian president, Trump suggested that he investigate corruption allegations about Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s board position on Ukrainian energy company Burisma. While Biden was vice president, he told Ukraine that $1 billion in aide would be withheld unless the country took anti-corruption measures, including firing a widely condemned prosecutor who had opened an investigation in to Burisma.
A complaint from an anonymous whilstleblower about the call, which prompted the House to formalize an impeachment investigation, suggested that Trump was holding up aide until Ukraine started the investigation into a political rival. Trump’s supporters deny the two were linked, though the president told reporters as much on the White House lawn in early October, while encouraging China to undertake a similar investigation of Hunter Biden.
Biden condemned an ad from Trump’s team several major networks have refused to air, which claims “Joe Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company.”
“He’s already spent $12 million on television spreading lies about me,” Biden said. “Everybody’s account, including all the people who testified this administration, and — and the Ukrainians — and said, ‘Biden did a great job for us.’”
In response to a question about what he plans to do if Trump refuses to leave office if he loses in 2020, Biden said, “I don’t think that will happen,” but agreed that Trump “will argue that it was stolen from him.”
“What worries me the most is that the more walls close in on him — and not the wall that Mexico’s paying for — the more the walls close in on this guy, the more erratic he becomes,” Biden said. “We got to be very careful. But here’s what I’m confident of. I’m confident that the security forces, the FBI, the police agencies and the intelligence community and the military, because he’s so denigrated them so badly.”
Biden is the only 2020 Democrat with experience in two prior impeachment episodes. Joining the Senate at age 30 representing Delaware, Biden’s first year-and-a-half on Capitol Hill coincided with investigations of President Richard Nixon over Watergate. Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974 facing sure impeachment in the House and conviction and removal in the Senate.
In 1999, in the second half of Biden’s 36-year Senate career, he opposed impeachment articles against President Bill Clinton over lying and obstruction of justice in the Monica Lewinsky episode, joining all fellow Democrats and some Senate Republicans in a trial that kept Clinton in office through the end of his second term.
“I’ve been through two impeachments. No country should have to go through this, unless it’s absolutely necessary, unless there’s no option,” Biden added.
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