Live

Watch CBSN Live

Biden says Congress has "no choice" on impeachment if Trump obstructs whistleblower probe

Joe Biden on Trump impeachment

Former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Congress would have "no choice" but to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump if the administration doesn't turn over a whistleblower complaint about the president's alleged efforts to solicit the help of a foreign leader for his own political gain.

"If the president does not comply with such a request from Congress, if he continues to obstruct Congress, Donald Trump will leave Congress, in my view, no choice but to initiate impeachment," Biden told reporters in brief remarks in Wilmington, Delaware. "That would be a tragedy — but a tragedy of his own making."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime skeptic of a potentially divisive impeachment effort, announced the establishment of a formal impeachment inquiry Tuesday afternoon.

Biden, one of the candidates leading the crowded field of Democrats seeking to thwart Mr. Trump's reelection bid, said he expected the president to target him when he announced his presidential campaign. He has strongly pushed back against the president's allegations that Biden pressed the Ukrainian government to oust its top prosecutor to derail an investigation into an energy company that had hired his youngest son, Hunter.

The former vice president and longtime senator from Delaware said the nation could not allow Mr. Trump to "get away with shredding" the U.S. Constitution, which he said would last forever.

"It's an abuse of power," Biden said Tuesday. "It undermines our national security. It violates his oath of office. And it strikes at the heart of the sworn responsibility a president has to put national interest before personal interest."

Trump slams impeachment inquiry as "presidential harassment"

That position is in line with what the former vice president said Saturday in Iowa, when he stated the president "could be impeached" depending on the findings of congressional investigations. "I know Trump deserves to be investigated. He is violating every basic norm of a president," Biden said in Iowa. "Depending on what the House finds [Trump] could be impeached. But I'm not making that judgment now. The House should investigate."

Biden's comments on Tuesday come as Democratic leadership in Congress prepares to launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump after a group of previously hesitant Democrats vouched their support for the move, citing allegations that the president repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter during a call in July. The conversation between the two leaders is said to be at the center of the whistleblower complaint a member of the intelligence community made last month.

Mr. Trump admitted over the weekend that he discussed the Bidens with the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, but he has denied any wrongdoing. On Tuesday, he said he would release an unredacted transcript of his call with Zelensky, but his administration has so far refused to turn over the whistleblower complaint to Congress.

View CBS News In