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Biden tells MSNBC he would not pardon Trump, when asked about hypothetical prosecution

Joe Biden casts Trump as divider as the president visits Pennsylvania

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden takes more swings at President Trump; Peter Doocy reports.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said on MSNBC Thursday night that if President Trump were accused of or charged with a crime during a Biden presidency, he would not issue a pardon for such a hypothetical offense for the purpose of uniting the country.
The question came during an appearance on "The Last Word" with host Lawrence O'Donnell, with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and potential Biden vice-presidential pick Stacey Abrams also on the show
"Would you be willing to commit to not pulling a President Ford and giving Donald Trump a pardon under the pretense of healing the nation? In other words, are you willing to commit to the American ideal that no one is above the law?" a viewer asked in a video question played on screen.
In this Jan. 12, 2017, file photo Vice President Joe Biden listens during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, where President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
In this Jan. 12, 2017, file photo Vice President Joe Biden listens during a ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, where President Barack Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
"Absolutely yes. I commit," Biden said, not elaborating on his reasoning in the four-word answer.
Ford became president in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned under the threat of impeachment. Ford pardoned his predecessor before any criminal charges related to the Watergate burglary could be filed.
The presidential proclamation Ford issued pardoning Nixon explained that the preemptive clemency was necessary because the trial of a former president "will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States."
Ford also said in the proclamation that criminal charges against Nixon could cause the nation's recently regained "tranquility" to be "irreparably lost."
U.S. President Gerald Ford tells newsmen, Sunday, September 8, 1974, in his White House office that he has granted former President Richard M. Nixon "a full, free and absolute pardon" for all "offenses against the United States" during the period of his presidency. Ford then signed the document. (AP Photo)
U.S. President Gerald Ford tells newsmen, Sunday, September 8, 1974, in his White House office that he has granted former President Richard M. Nixon "a full, free and absolute pardon" for all "offenses against the United States" during the period of his presidency. Ford then signed the document. (AP Photo)
Trump has not been charged with any crime, and it is unclear what type of crime the MSNBC viewer who asked the question might have been referring to.
Breaking a silence following Biden's terse answer, O'Donnell picked up the conversation with a follow-up.
"Mr. Vice President, you're saying that wherever the investigative trail might lead, whether that be an investigative trail pursued against Trump officials, Trump associates, administration officials, whether those are congressional investigations — that's hands-off for you, you're not gonna say, 'Let's just let bygones be bygones?" the host asked.
"It's hands-off completely. Look, the Attorney General of the United States is not the president's lawyer, he's the people's lawyer," Biden said.
Biden continued, departing from the original question about potentially pardoning Trump and moving on to slam the president over the Department of Justice's (DOJ) recent legal maneuvers that were favorable to Trump associates.
"It is not something the president is entitled to do — to direct either a prosecution and or to decide to drop a case," Biden said. "That is not the president's role or responsibility and it is a dereliction of his duty and the dereliction of the duty of the — you know, you have what? 2,000 was it, of former attorneys general and our people who worked in the office said the president and attorney general should resign? What's going on is an absolute travesty. A travesty of justice. That will not happen I guarantee you."
Biden was referring to an open letter from former DOJ employees who are calling on Attorney General Bill Barr to resign over the department's move to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. There are currently 2,300-plus signatures on the letter, which started out with just under 2,000 signatures earlier this week. The Medium post where the letter is written says the signatures on the letter "have been vetted to the best of our ability."

Flynn had previously pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI but moved earlier this year to withdraw that plea. The DOJ in its motion to drop the Flynn charges said it had "concluded that the evidence [against Flynn] is insufficient to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt." Attorney General Bill Barr later defended the decision in an interview with CBS.
The judge on the case, however, has not approved the DOJ's motion to drop its case against Flynn and has said that he will accept third-party input on whether or not to drop the charges — a group of former Watergate prosecutors has already stepped up to make a case that the Flynn charges shouldn't be dropped.
In the same interview, Biden denied that he was part of the investigation into Flynn during the waning days of the Obama presidency despite his name appearing on a list of former Obama officials who requested what turned out to be Flynn's identity in surveilled conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn had asked Kislyak to refrain from responding to Obama administration sanctions against Russia for its interference in the 2016 election.

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