Former Vice President Joe Biden vowed Thursday that, if elected to the White House in November, he would not use his new executive powers to pardon President Donald Trump of any potential crimes.
The pledge from the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee came during a virtual town hall on MSNBC, when Biden was asked by a voter whether he would be willing to commit “to not pulling a President Ford” and pardoning Trump “under the pretense of healing the nation.”
“Absolutely, yes. I commit,” Biden responded, adding: “It’s hands off completely. Look, the attorney general of the United States is not the president’s lawyer. It’s the people’s lawyer.”
A possible pardon of Trump by Biden would represent the second such exoneration of a former president by his successor in modern American history. President Gerald Ford famously pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974 after he resigned from the presidency amid the Watergate scandal, facing the imminent threat of impeachment and removal from office.
Trump has faced legal scrutiny throughout his administration for a variety of alleged misconduct related to his acceptance of foreign government money through his luxury Washington hotel, his participation in dubious tax schemes while building his real estate empire, and his involvement in a hush money payment to a porn star in the run-up to the 2016 election — which resulted in federal prosecutors implicating him in his former attorney’s campaign finance crimes.
Meanwhile, Trump has also drawn significant criticism from congressional Democrats and former federal law enforcement officials, who charge that the president has sought to manipulate the Justice Department to advance a political agenda and serve his personal interests rather than those of the nation.
Last week, the department abandoned its prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition before Trump’s inauguration.
That controversial maneuver by Attorney General William Barr came after DOJ in February intervened in another prominent case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller — revising the sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime informal political adviser, after the president blasted government prosecutors’ initial proposal.
Biden alluded to both of those actions Thursday, lamenting how “we never saw anything like the prostitution of like we see it today,” and arguing that “what’s going on is an absolute travesty. A travesty of justice. It is not something the president is entitled to do, to direct either a prosecution and/or decide to drop a case”.