Joe Biden faces off against Trump in impeachment storm

Joe Biden faces off against Trump in impeachment storm
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Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE is at the center of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE’s impeachment inquiry, posing new risks for Biden’s presidential campaign at a time when he’s struggling to fend off a challenge from Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann Warren2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Sanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Overnight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul MORE (D-Mass.).

Biden, who has been surpassed by Warren in some national and early-state polls, finds himself in direct conflict with Trump after House Democrats this week moved forward with an impeachment inquiry.

A White House memo released Wednesday revealed how Trump pressed the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was on the board of directors for a Ukrainian energy company when his father was vice president.

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There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and the former vice president has in the past relished going one-on-one with Trump.

Allies say the confrontation will showcase Biden’s fighter spirit and elevate him in the field of Democratic contenders by framing him as the top challenger to Trump.

However, the unfolding controversy and the high stakes of an impeachment inquiry have the president and his allies ramping up their attacks on Biden, keeping his son’s private life and business dealings in the news at a time when Biden appears vulnerable in the Democratic primary contest for the first time.

There are fears that the Ukrainian controversy will become an anchor on Biden’s campaign, even if there is no evidence of impropriety.

“The impeachment inquiry just drags him into the middle of all of this and puts a massive target on his back,” said one Democratic fundraiser who supports Biden. “All Fox News is going to be talking about is ‘What is Biden’s connection to the Ukraine?’ It’s such an easy issue to muddy the waters on.”

Some are beginning to worry that the controversy will be twisted by Trump and become an obsession for the media. They’re likening it to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats ask judge for quick ruling on McGahn subpoena Hillary Clinton: 'Every day Stephen Miller remains in the White House is an emergency' The Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race MORE’s email controversy in 2016, which led to an FBI investigation that many Democrats feel received outsized attention by the press in comparison to Trump’s own controversies.

“I think the big fear for Biden is that this turns into Hillary’s email controversy,” said one Democratic strategist who is unaffiliated with a campaign. “They took a big nothingburger and made it into something.”

“Now it’s really up to Biden to show he has the chops to take this on,” the Democrat said. “It’s a double-edged sword if there ever was one. Can he capitalize on this, or will he let Trump and Republicans make this into an indelible storyline?” 

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The pro-Trump super PAC Great America on Wednesday put six figures behind a new ad calling on Congress to investigation Biden’s role in getting a Ukrainian prosecutor fired.

Biden’s national press secretary, TJ Ducklo, fired back, saying the ad makes Trump and his allies seem “panicked” over the prospect of facing Biden. 

“Donald Trump and his campaign aren’t doing a very good job hiding how panicked they are about facing Joe Biden,” Ducklo said. “So panicked that they continue to lie about claims that have been universally debunked by multiple news outlets. Today’s ad further affirms what we already know: VP Biden will beat Donald Trump like a drum next November, and the Trump team knows it too.” 

There is no evidence that Joe Biden pressed Ukraine to fire a prosecutor to protect his son, as Republicans have alleged. The Obama administration has said it pushed to remove the prosecutor, who had been looking into the company where Biden’s son served as a board member, for not doing enough to root out corruption.

The Biden campaign has so far been aggressive in pushing reporters to not get hung up with a “both sides” approach to the Ukraine controversy.

Allies have ripped news outlets, such as The New York Times, for releasing reports about how Hunter Biden’s foreign work could be a drag on his father’s campaign.

Robert Wolf, a Democratic mega-donor who has given money to Joe Biden, as well as several other campaigns, said the pressure is on Biden to ensure that the controversy does not consume his campaign.

“Joe Biden has come out strong and forceful on the misuse of power with respect to the Oval, and I like that he is exuding confidence by taking Trump head on,” Wolf said. “It is key that he doesn’t allow this to have legs and interfere with his vision for the country.”

The collision between Trump and Biden comes as Warren is charging hard up the leaderboard in the Democratic primary.

A Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday found Warren eclipsing Biden nationally for the first time, and the most recent surveys of Iowa and New Hampshire also show her edging into the lead.

Some allies view the controversy as a boon for Biden, describing it as evidence that he’s the candidate the president is most worried about.

On Tuesday, during a prepared statement delivered before a backdrop of American flags, Biden delivered a message about how he’s the best fighter the party can nominate to take on Trump. 

“I knew when I decided to run this president would attack me and anyone else who he thought would be a threat to his winning again,” Biden said during a statement delivered from his home state of Delaware.  

“I can take the political attacks — they’ll come and they’ll go and in time they’ll soon be forgotten,” he added.  “But if we allow a president to get away with shredding the United States Constitution, that will last forever.”

And speaking at a fundraiser Monday night, Biden signaled an aggressive approach.

“I’m not going to take a punch and not punch back,” he said.

On Saturday, a fiery Biden accused Trump of coming after him “because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum.” 

Democratic strategists say the confrontation can be a preview of sorts for a general election matchup — if it doesn’t swallow the campaign, the way Clinton’s emails did.  

“It’s important for him to show the primary electorate that he knows how to handle the vicious smear job that is coming his way,” said Democratic strategist Zac Petkanas, who worked on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “The episode is a test of his candidacy and whether he’s about to do what Hillary Clinton wasn’t able to do and survive Trump’s attacks.”