Joe Biden said he would not pardon Donald Trump as president, and would not block any potential criminal investigations into Trump’s time in office.
The presumptive Democratic candidate touched on the issue during a virtual town-hall held by MSNBC on Thursday. Biden said that he would not follow in the footsteps of President Gerald Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal.
As NBC News reported, Biden did not accuse Trump of any specific crime, but said that he would not interfere in any investigations — as he appeared to accuse Trump of doing.
“It’s hands off completely. The attorney general is not the president’s lawyer. It’s the people’s lawyer. We never saw anything like the prostitution of that office like we see it today.”
Trump has been widely criticized for what critics see as his attempts to exert influence over decisions at the Department of Justice, despite the separation that has traditionally existed between the White House and the department. The criticism has intensified after the Justice Department’s decision to drop the prosecution of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The decision came after Trump frequently criticized the case against Flynn and publicly considered issuing a pardon for him.
Some legal experts believe that Trump could face prosecution after leaving office, as he was implicated in a campaign finance charge that sent his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to prison. Trump faces a number of other pending civil lawsuits.
Biden had not previously committed to allowing investigations — or pardoning Trump — if he were to have been found guilty, though other Democratic candidates had been more explicit. Last summer, Elizabeth Warren vowed to investigate any potential crimes of the Trump administration had she won the presidency, including those committed against immigrants. She also committed to releasing all information that had been requested of the Trump administration that was ultimately not turned over to Congress during impeachment hearings.
Biden also responded to claims from Trump that the Obama administration engaged in political “crimes.” The president did not specify what those crimes entailed, but they appeared to be related to Flynn. Trump and allies have accused the Obama administration of entrapping Flynn, but the former vice president said he took part in nothing of the sort.
“I was never a part or had any knowledge of any criminal investigation into Flynn while I was in office, period. Not one single time.”