(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden said for the first time Wednesday that President Donald Trump should be impeached.
“He should be impeached,” Biden said to a standing ovation from supporters in Rochester, New Hampshire.
Biden had yet to explicitly call for Trump’s impeachment, saying only that Congress would have no choice but to impeach if the Trump administration refused to cooperate with a probe into his behavior.
On Tuesday, the White House said it would not participate in an impeachment inquiry it considered to be run by a “kangaroo court,” saying it would prohibit witnesses from testifying and would block any document submissions.
“Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Biden said.
Trump, speaking to reporters during a White House ceremony to sign an executive order, said Biden was "falling like a rock" in the polls. Biden’s lead has held steady while Elizabeth Warren has risen to a tie with Biden.
"I don’t think he’s going to make it," Trump said. Biden has said that Trump wanted foreign countries to investigate the former vice president because Trump fears a general election campaign against him. Trump added he "feels badly" for Biden.
The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump has seized on unfounded claims that Biden pushed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor who had been investigating Burisma to benefit his son. But that probe had been dormant for more than a year and Biden, as vice president, was carrying out U.S. policy in concert with U.S. allies in pushing for the prosecutor’s dismissal.
In his 20-minute speech, Biden described Trump’s actions in the starkest terms he has used throughout a campaign built on criticizing Trump.
Biden said that Trump is “shooting holes in the Constitution” and that “this is an especially dangerous moment for this nation.”
He reminded voters of Trump’s requests to Russia and China to meddle in American elections, read from documents related to the impeachment investigation and praised the intelligence community whistle-blower who came forward with the complaint.
For Biden, the decision to support impeachment follows a two-week period of slowly escalating his rhetoric about Trump’s actions. Biden was thrust into the center of the impeachment debate after a whistle-blower report revealed Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president included the request about him and his son.
Later, Trump spoke to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House and challenged China to also investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings there.
Biden, at first, was reluctant to speak about the investigation, and said Congress should take the lead. However, over the last week, he has taken a more aggressive posture toward Trump, culminating in Wednesday’s call for impeachment.
“I’m not going to let him get away with it,” Biden said. “He’s picked a fight with the wrong guy.”
Biden’s call for impeachment follows that of many of his Democratic rivals and at a time when his lead over the primary field has narrowed. Elizabeth Warren, who first called for impeachment after the release of the Mueller report, is now statistically tied Biden in recent state and national polls.
Before Biden finished speaking, Trump tweeted that Biden was being “pathetic” in calling for his impeachment. “I did nothing wrong. Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!”
Biden shot back on Twitter, writing: “Thanks for watching. Stop stonewalling the Congress. Honor your oath. Respect the Constitution. And speaking of taxpayers, I’ve released 21 years of my tax returns. You?”
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