Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden on Wednesday joined the list of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders calling for President Trump to be impeached, warning that the Republican commander-in-chief “is shooting holes in the Constitution and we cannot let him get away with it.”
Mr. Biden told voters in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire that Mr. Trump is running scared over the prospect of facing him in a general election and will do anything to save his own neck — including peddling lies about him and his family and pressuring foreign leaders to dig up dirt on political rivals.
“Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Mr. Biden said, sparking applause from the crowd. “To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity — he should be impeached.”
The 76-year-old later added: “He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.”
Mr. Trump quickly fired back via Twitter: “So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment — and I did nothing wrong.”
“Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Biden had previously shied away from the impeachment push — signaling that he thought the better path to be focusing his attention on stopping Mr. Trump at the ballot box.
The politics of the issue, though, shifted after a whistleblower accused Mr. Trump of using threats to cut off U.S. military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens over the son’s profitable business dealings with Ukraine’s energy industry and the father’s interference with local prosecutors.
The allegation triggered an official impeachment inquiry in the House and led Mr. Trump to try to turn the tables on Democrats by noting that Mr. Biden, as vice president, had bragged about using the threat of a U.S. aid cutoff to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor.
Mr. Trump, who denies any quid pro quo in his conversations with Mr. Zelensky and has released the transcript of the call, also questioned whether Mr. Biden helped his son with business deals in China, and his campaign launched ads highlighting how Mr. Biden in 2016 threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee from Kyiv unless the country fired chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who has since told reporters he was getting ready to investigate Hunter Biden.
The Biden campaign has pressured television networks and social media websites to refuse the ads, arguing they’re spreading lies.
Meanwhile, Mr. Biden polling support has dipped, and his top rivals for the party’s presidential nomination — Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernard Sanders of Vermont — each has pulled in more money over the last three months of the campaign.
It all fed into the growing sense that Mr. Biden, who was already struggling to excite liberal activists, had to do more to combat Mr. Trump’s attacks before it was too late.
Mr. Biden started responding more aggressively last week in Nevada, likening Mr. Trump to “every bully in history — he’s afraid.”
“He’s afraid of just how badly I would beat him next November,” he said.
Mr. Biden expanded the argument Wednesday to include his newfound belief that Mr. Trump “has committed acts sufficient to warrant impeachment.”
Mr. Biden also said Wednesday “there is no truth” to the charges Mr. Trump has leveled against him.
He also said the 2016 ouster of Mr. Shokin was backed by, among others, the Obama administration, Republican senators and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.
“What I did was to seek to replace a weak prosecutor with one who would, we hoped, go after the corruption that is holding back Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said. “What Trump did was hold hostage political support and hundreds of millions in desperately needed aid to a country at war to advance his personal political demands.”
Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump thinks his power is limitless and thinks the American public has no recourse to stop him.
“He believes he can and will get away with anything he does,” Mr. Biden said. “We all laughed when he said he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and get away with it.”
“It is no joke,” he said. “He is shooting holes in the Constitution and we cannot let him get away with it.”