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Biden Blasts Trump As A President Who 'Believes He Is Above The Law'

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke about Ukraine and President Trump on Tuesday.
Olivier Douliery
AFP/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden spoke about Ukraine and President Trump on Tuesday.

Updated at 3:43 p.m. ET

Former Vice President Joe Biden called for President Trump's impeachment unless the White House complies with congressional requests for information about a call the president made to a Ukrainian leader.

"We have a president who believes there is no limit to his power," Biden said. "We have a president who believes he can do anything and get away with it. We have a president who believes he is above the law."

Biden said Trump has been "stonewalling" Congress about the Ukraine call and said impeachment would be a "tragedy of his own making."

The support for impeachment is a shift for Biden. Unlike most of the 2020 presidential field, he had resisted calling for it. Earlier this year, Biden said impeachment proceedings would be a "gigantic distraction."

But Biden now calls Trump's conduct in holding up aid to Ukraine an "abuse of power."

"The allegation that [Trump] blocked hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally approved aid to another country unless [Ukraine's leader] agreed to smear a political opponent is not the conduct of an American president," Biden said. "It's an abuse of power."

Biden made the remarks hours ahead of a planned meeting by House Democrats at which they are expected to take a decision about next moves on impeachment.

Biden is a particularly important piece of this puzzle, as he has been at the center of Trump's tactic to try to deflect attention from the controversy.

Without evidence and furthering a conspiracy theory populated in conservative circles, Trump has accused Biden of strong-arming Ukraine with funding to help his son Hunter, who was serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

While many point to Hunter Biden as cashing in on the Biden name, Joe Biden was carrying out Obama administration policy in calling for the removal from office of a prosecutor whom Western alliance countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank saw as corrupt. So Biden was hardly freelancing.

The allegations of corruption against the gas company, Burisma, predated Hunter Biden's joining its board. In fact, Burisma brought Hunter Biden on board in an effort to look like it was cleaning up its act. Joe Biden on Tuesday again denied any wrongdoing.

What's more, the fired prosecutor's investigation into Burisma had been completed before Biden, acting on behalf of the Obama administration, asked for him to be removed. And many in Ukraine credit Joe Biden with helping in the effort to clean up corruption in the country.

While Hunter Biden's involvement in the gas company threatens to continue to be a headache for Biden and his campaign, the controversy surrounding Trump has actually had the effect of insulating Biden, at least for now, in the Democratic primary.

For months, Biden, who has been leading in the polls, had been facing withering criticism from other Democratic candidates because of his more moderate policies and restorative vision for the country. But Democratic candidates haven't been able to criticize him for days now. The saga could end up hardening some of his support and increasing sympathy for him among Democratic primary voters.

A growing number of House Democrats, including civil rights icon John Lewis and seven freshmen, are throwing their support behind an impeachment inquiry.

NPR's Philip Ewing contributed to this report. contributed to this story

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.