Former Vice President Joe Biden charged Tuesday that President Trump was well aware of the true nature of what has been called a white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 when he made equivocating comments following violent clashes that left one person dead.
Speaking last Friday at the White House, the president argued that he was referring to supporters of Confederate General Robert E. Lee when he said nearly two years earlier that there were “people that were very fine people on both sides."
"I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump explained.
"I have answered that question, and if you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly," he added.
But Biden, campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday afternoon, didn’t buy the president's explanation and once again took aim at Trump over the comments.
“Give me a break. Enough’s enough, man. It’s nonsense. The very rally was advertised, advertised, as a white supremacist rally. Anti-Semitic chants were clear. Hatred was on the march and he knew it,” Biden emphasized.
Biden spotlighted the Charlottesville episode as an opening salvo in his campaign to try and oust the Republican president from the White House. In a video last Thursday that launched his White House bid, the former vice president charged that “with those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it."
“And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my lifetime. I wrote at the time that we’re in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, that’s even more true today,” he added.
Biden spotlighted Charlottesville again on Monday in Pittsburgh, as he hit the campaign trail for the first time as a 2020 presidential contender.
A day later, speaking to a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Biden once again warned of the dangers of re-electing Trump.
“You all know in your gut that this election for president is different,” Biden stressed. “Limited to four years, this administration will go down as an aberrant moment in time. But give eight years to this administration and the White House and we’re going to forever and fundamentally change the character of the country.”
While Biden was on stage in Iowa, his campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters nationwide that included the candidate charging that “we’ve seen this Administration praise neo-Nazis and white supremacists and rip families apart at the border.”
In focusing his spotlight on Trump rather than his rivals for the nomination, it’s clear the Democratic frontrunner wants to run a general election-type campaign during the primaries.
Biden, making his first stop in the state that kicks off the caucus and primary nominating calendar, vowed to campaign often in Iowa.
“The good news and the bad news - you’re going to be seeing a whole heckuva lot of me. I promise you this - No one is going to work harder in Iowa than Joe Biden to get your support and gain your confidence,” he said.
In his speech, similar to his comments a day earlier at a union hall in Pittsburgh, Biden vowed to fight for the middle class and took aim at Trump’s tax cuts – the president’s signature domestic achievement.
“We have to deal with that God awful tax cut,” Biden emphasized as he also called for ending the loopholes in the tax cuts that he said benefit the ultra-wealthy and provide incentives for corporations to ship jobs overseas.
"If Trump wins in 2020 I guarantee you, I guarantee you that Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security go on the chopping block,” he warned. “We can’t let that happen. You earned those rights.”
He also made a pitch to supporters of his closest rival for the nomination – independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – by calling once again for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and letting people obtain health insurance through a public Medicare option.
Biden, who’s described himself as an Obama-Biden Democrat, praised his former boss in the White House.
"Barack Obama is an extraordinary man. Your measure of a man or woman’s worth and their courage based on how they react to overwhelming crisis. I watched this guy. Everything but locusts landed on his desk. Not a joke. And his integrity, his dignity, his decency. He was a president our kids could look up to,” Biden said.
Iowa is the first early voting state that Biden has visited since launching his campaign last week. In 2008 – during the second of his three White House bids – the then-senator from Delaware dropped out of the race after grabbing less than one percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.
The Republican National Committee mentioned that result as it criticized Biden and spotlighted that Iowa’s unemployment has dropped to 1.9 percent during the Trump presidency.
“Joe Biden may think his candidacy is a big deal, but he comes to Iowa looking to do what he has never convinced Iowans to do before – support his bid for president,” RNC spokesperson Preya Samsundar said. “While Biden looks to shore up his support amongst his party’s most vocal, Iowans will make it clear that they are not interested in going back to the days of skyrocketing health care premiums and deductibles, higher taxes, and high unemployment rates.”
Earlier Tuesday, Biden said that the Democrats in Congress shouldn’t push to impeach the president yet. But he didn’t take impeachment off the table.
"There are elements of the report in the second phase of the report -- about seven or eight things that are left undone. [Special Counsel Robert Mueller] was not within his purview to investigate, he thought. The Congress is attempting to take that up," Biden said in an interview on ABC News’ ‘Good Morning America.’
"What the Congress should do, and they are doing, is investigating that. And if in fact -- if in fact they block the investigation, they have no alternative but to go to the only other Constitutional resort they have, which is impeachment,” he added.