Joe Biden is taking a hands-off approach to the second impeachment of Donald Trump.
As the Senate moves forward with impeaching the 45th president a second time, the current president has opted to steer clear of involving himself too closely in the proceedings.
During a brief appearance alongside senators in front of reporters on Thursday, Biden was asked if he had been watching any of the impeachment trial taking place on Capitol Hill this week.
He said he hadn’t but “my guess is some minds may be changed” based on the presentation by the House impeachment managers.
Separately, in an interview with NBC about those remarks, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Biden “knows there’s a role for Congress to play, and a role for him to play, and his role in this process is to be president of the United States and to govern for all of the American people”.
During a White House press briefing earlier this week Psaki was pressed on whether Biden would weigh in on the impeachment.
“Well, first, the president himself would tell you that we keep him pretty busy, and he has a full schedule this week, which we will continue to keep you abreast of” Psaki said.
Psaki went on to say that Biden’s schedule includes a visit to the Department of Defense, meetings with business leaders, governors and mayors, and a heavy focus on a Covid relief plan seen as vital to the nation’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“So he … I think it’s clear from his schedule, and from his intention, he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” Psaki continued. “He will remain closely in touch with [House] Speaker Pelosi, Leader [Chuck] Schumer, a range of officials on the Hill about his plan. And that’s exactly what they want him to do, is to remain focused on that.
“And he will leave the pace and the process and the mechanics of the impeachment proceedings up to members of Congress.”
Instead, Biden officials and the president himself are stressing that their focus is on passing a large Covid relief bill. What Congress does is up to Congress, they argue.
Biden echoed Psaki’s remarks during an appearance in front of the press while meeting with business leaders. He said he would not be watching the trial.
“I am not,” Biden said when asked if he was watching the impeachment proceedings. “Look, I told you before: I have a job. My job is to keep people … we’ve already lost over 450,000 people. We’re going to lose a whole lot more if we don’t act, and act decisively and quickly.”
Biden continued: “A lot of families are food insecure. They’re in trouble. That’s my job. The Senate has their job; they’re about to begin it. I’m sure they’re going to conduct themselves well. And that’s all I’m going to have to say about impeachment.”
The political calculationbehind this hands-off approach to Trump’s impeachment trial is that there’s not much to be gained by Biden speaking out. Even though the Senate voted that impeaching Trump a second time is constitutional, his actual conviction is still a long shot. It’s unlikely anything Biden did say would sway the requisite number of Republicans needed to successfully convict Trump and thereby bar him from ever running for office again.
Though, despite his current silence, Biden has previously weighed in on the necessity of impeaching Trump for his involvement in inciting a mob to attack the Capitol on January. In January Biden told CNN “I think it has to happen.”