“If we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever,” Biden said during a brief speech in Delaware Tuesday afternoon.
“The president should stop stonewalling this investigation and all the other investigations into his alleged wrongdoing,” he added. “Using its full constitutional authority, Congress, in my view, should demand the information it has a legal right to receive. If the president does not comply with such a request from the Congress, he continues to obstruct Congress and flout the law, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment. That would be a tragedy. But a tragedy of his own making.”
Biden’s announcement underscores the enormous shift the Democratic Party has taken in the past week on the issue.
The former vice president has positioned himself as a more centrist option in the Democratic presidential field, with his pitch that he’s able to win back some Trump voters who are skeptical of progressive ideas.
And until Tuesday, he was one of the only Democratic candidates not on board with impeachment. But Biden has now been pulled into a controversy that reaches far beyond the 2020 campaign.
At issue is whether Trump illegally tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden. For months, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been pushing the unfounded theory that Biden, as vice president, pressured Ukraine to fire the country’s chief prosecutor to prevent the prosecutor from investigating a Ukrainian gas company with ties to his son Hunter Biden.
On July 25, the day after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress, Trump called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and asked him roughly eight times to help Giuliani investigate the Bidens, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Weeks after the phone call, a whistleblower filed a complaint with the intelligence community inspector general, reporting that Trump made a “promise” to a foreign leader. The inspector general deemed the complaint “credible” and “urgent,” meaning it should have been passed on to congressional watchdogs. Instead, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, with assistance from the Justice Department and the White House, has blocked lawmakers from viewing it.
There are also questions about whether Trump withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine in order to extract a promise from the country that it would investigate Biden. The president claimed he did so because the United States was contributing more than European countries were.
Biden’s flip comes as a number of previously reluctant House Democrats have also changed their minds. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is meeting with her caucus Tuesday afternoon and weighing whether it’s time for her to get on board as well.
Biden’s position against impeachment was becoming untenable. If the campaign wanted to argue that what Trump did was unprecedented and beyond the pale, it would be easier to make the case if he himself believed it was an impeachable offense.
Biden advisers acknowledged on Monday that reports of Trump’s interaction with the Ukranian president were so egregious that the time may be ripe for a different position.
“The nature of this offense is such that I think everyone is taking another look now at where this process is,” Biden senior adviser Anita Dunn said.
The House Intelligence Committee wants Maguire to testify on Thursday and hand over the whistleblower complaint. The White House has said it’s considering releasing the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, but so far there is no indication that it will share the complaint.
This piece has been updated with Biden’s remarks.