Former Vice President Joe Biden edged closer to calling for impeachment on Wednesday night, pointing to a rough transcript of a conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president as evidence that Trump likely committed “an impeachable offense.”
Biden, who had stopped short of calling for the president to be ousted earlier this week, adjusted his stance after the White House shared the readout of a 30-minute phone call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July. According to the 2,000-word rough transcript released Wednesday, Trump repeatedly suggested that Zelensky investigate Biden, offering help from the Justice Department and raising the possibility of inviting the foreign leader to the White House.
“Based on the material that they acknowledged today, it seems to me it’s awful hard to avoid the conclusion that it is an impeachable offense and a violation of constitutional responsibility,” Biden said during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Biden’s comments come as top Democrats have agreed to speed up their impeachment investigation, while some Republican senators are expressing concerns with the contents of the call. As of late Wednesday, 218 House members say they support an impeachment inquiry — enough for a simple majority. Not one is a Republican.
But Biden said the ongoing saga, which is largely centered around unfounded allegations that he and his son committed wrongdoings in Ukraine, won’t distract from his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination and challenge Trump in 2020.
“I am confident in the ability of the House and Senate to deal with this,” Biden said. “My job is to go out and flat beat him.”
The roughly 16-minute interview kicked off Wednesday night with host Jimmy Kimmel jokingly asking Biden if there was “anything going on.”
“Not much at all, just Rudy and Donald,” Biden responded, referencing Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. In recent days, the pair repeated allegations about Biden and his son Hunter that have not been supported by any official evidence thus far, according to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. A Tuesday report from The Post identified Giuliani as a key player in Ukraine dealings.
“There’s not one single solitary legitimate journalist in the world giving any credibility to this,” Biden said Wednesday, echoing comments he made to reporters on Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware.
Still, Biden didn’t hesitate to join Kimmel in throwing shade at Trump and Giuliani. On the “outlandish scale,” Biden said Wednesday he would rank the previous 48 hours an “18 out of 10.”
“Hard to believe he was mayor of New York at one time and seemed to be doing an OK job,” Kimmel said of Giuliani. “It’s like his body has been taken over by another being.”
“I didn’t know the president could do that,” Biden quipped.
Then the conversation shifted to the day’s biggest story: the Ukraine transcript and impeachment.
Unlike his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls, Biden has shied away from full-throated calls to begin the impeachment process, The Post reported. But on Wednesday, after the release of the rough transcript, he suggested his position has shifted.
“It’s such a blatant abuse of power,” Biden said. “I don’t think it can stand.”
Biden, however, stressed that there is “much more at stake” than Trump “acting so bizarrely.”
“I can’t let this distract me in a way that takes me away from the issues that really are the reason why I’m running,” he said. “We have to restore the soul of this country — who we are, our values.”
For the rest of the interview, Biden focused on his campaign, reiterating how his decision to run was sparked by Charlottesville and the president’s infamous claim that there were “very fine people on both sides” at the violent rally, and what could happen to the U.S. if Trump is re-elected.
“This division in our country is just so devastating, so devastating for so many people, and it’s ruining our standing around the world,” Biden said. “We can probably handle four years if he doesn’t get us into a war in the next year … I’m not being glib saying that. But eight years of Donald Trump will fundamentally alter the character of this nation in my view. We can’t let that happen.”
Biden also continued to criticize Trump’s policy on health care, the environment and gun control.
“I just think with him gone there’s a chance to breathe new life into what everybody knows has to be done,” he said.