(WASHINGTON) — On the campaign trail, former Vice President Joe Biden has largely sought to avoid the all-consuming drama of President Donald Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.
This week in Iowa, Biden only briefly mentioned the trial, ignoring questions from reporters on the topic, and telling the crowd at a campaign event in Fort Dodge, Iowa: “The next president is going to inherit a country that is divided — no matter what happens in this impeachment trial.”
On Wednesday morning, during an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Biden was similarly restrained in his comments on the trial that began just Tuesday.
“I didn’t get to see it all because I was out here campaigning in Iowa, doing town meetings. But what I saw the reruns of…I have a great respect and reverence for the Senate, for real, and…I was embarrassed for the institution. I was there a long time…and I never saw anything quite like that,” Biden said of the contentious first day of arguments between the House Democrats serving as impeachment managers and the legal defense team for Trump.
But while the candidate himself has tried to largely stay above the fray created by the impeachment drama, his campaign launched a spirited, at times explicit, defense against claims made by Trump and some in the Republican Party that the former vice president acted inappropriately when he called for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor that was ostensibly looking into Burisma, a natural gas company that his son, Hunter Biden, served as a board member.
In the roughly four-minute video, Biden campaign rapid response director Andrew Bates laid out a defense of Biden’s anti-corruption work in Ukraine that ultimately led to the removal of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.
— Team (have you made calls to Iowa this week?) Joe (@TeamJoe) January 21, 2020
Bates called Biden’s efforts to get rid of Shokin, a move supported by the European Union, International Monetary Fund and broader international community, “a monumental, bipartisan, international anti-corruption victory,” and had harsher words for Trump’s claim that Biden acted inappropriately and was influenced by the position his son held on the board of Burisma.
“Why is Donald Trump doing this? He knows he can’t beat Joe Biden,” Bates charges in the video. “He tried to make our national security policy an extension of his struggling reelection campaign.”
While Biden did pressure Ukraine to remove Shokin, no evidence has emerged to support Trump’s main allegation that Biden did so to benefit his son.
However Biden has still faced questions about the optics of having his adult son sit on the board of a company under investigation in a country where he represented American diplomatic efforts and pushed for anti-corruption reforms.
Biden has maintained those questions have nothing to do with the current impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, which is focused on Trump’s role in pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky to open an investigation into Biden and the 2016 presidential election.
“No matter who the nominee is, do you think the president is not going to lie about them? The only thing I’ve noticed is the more he’s attacked me, the more I’ve gone up in the polls. And by the way, I’ve released 21 years of my tax returns. Mr. President, release one of yours. You talk about corruption. Why won’t you release any of your tax returns? Stop talking about corruption, Mr. President unless you release your tax returns. Hush up, step up,” Biden said in an interview with NBC News earlier this month.
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