Joe Biden said for the first time Wednesday that President Donald Trump should be impeached for abusing his powers in soliciting help for his own reelection, calling his actions “un-American.”

The former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate said Trump was “shooting holes in the Constitution” by asking foreign governments to interfere in the 2020 election. In July, after putting a hold on crucial U.S. aid to Ukraine, Trump asked the nation’s leader in a phone call for “a favor” — investigations including one focused on Biden and his son Hunter.

House Democrats have begun an impeachment inquiry centered on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“Donald Trump will do anything to get reelected, including violating the most basic forms of democracy,” Biden told a crowd in Rochester, N.H. “It’s stunning, and it’s dangerous.

“This is not hyperbole: It’s a fact. No president in American history has even dared to engage in such unimaginable behavior. With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself,” Biden said. “By obstructing justice and refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry, he’s convicted himself — in full view of the world and the American people. Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts.”

Biden took Trump to task for what he described as attempts to enlist foreign countries to interfere with U.S. presidential elections — first Russia in 2016, and now Ukraine and China in 2020.

“The ballot box is sacred ground in America,” Biden said. “Last week, on the White House lawn, President Trump invited China to get engaged in deciding our election and who our nominee would be.

“It was the third foreign power — that we know of — that’s he’s asked in clear, unmistakable language, to interfere … in the democratic proceedings of the United States of America,” Biden said.

“It’s wrong. It’s un-American,” he said, adding that abuse of power was “a defining characteristic of Trump’s presidency.”

During Trump’s 30-minute call with Zelenskiy, he asked the new Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden, a front-runner in the race to oppose the president in 2020, and Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. Ukrainian officials have said there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

When Zelenskiy, whose nation is fighting Russian-backed separatists, asked about military aid, Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” according to the account of the call released by the White House. He added: “Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”

Trump has continued to level accusations of wrongdoing against the Bidens, despite a lack of substantiation.

Biden defended his efforts to remove a Ukrainian prosecutor when he was involved in Obama administration policy in the former Soviet republic — an act that lies at the heart of Trump’s allegations — as “the official position of the president of the United States and the United States government.”

“There’s no truth in his charges and attacks against me and my son — zero,” the former vice president said.

Although Biden hadn’t previously voiced support for Trump’s impeachment, Wednesday’s address marked the second time in a week that’s he’s publicly admonished the president over the Ukraine accusations and questioned his motivation.

“He’s afraid of just how badly I would beat him next November,” Biden said in a speech in Reno, Nev., last week. He repeated that assertion in New Hampshire.

“What I did was to seek to replace a weak prosecutor with one who we hoped would go after the corruption that was holding Ukraine back,” Biden said Wednesday. “What Trump did was to hold hostage political support and hundreds of millions of desperately needed dollars to a country at war to advance his own political demands.”

On Tuesday, the White House said it would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Although the White House declassified the memorandum of the phone call, it has refused to cooperate on other issues, spurring House subpoenas for testimony or documents.

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©2019 Los Angeles Times

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