Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams covered quite a bit of ground last night during a virtual town hall-style event on MSNBC, but I was especially interested in one voter's question.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon President Donald Trump if elected and insisted any prosecutorial decisions would be left to a more independent Justice Department.
The voter specifically referenced then-President Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon and asked whether Biden would publicly commit to a more hands-off approach.
"Absolutely, yes," Biden replied. "I commit." The former vice president went on to condemn Trump's and Attorney General Bill Barr's brazen politicization of federal law enforcement.
If this sounds at all familiar, it's because this wasn't the first time the Delaware Democrat broached the subject. In October of last year, the former vice president appeared on an Iowa radio show and said that Gerald Ford's Nixon pardon may have been well intentioned, but it was a mistake Biden wouldn't repeat.
This need not be seen as entirely theoretical exercise. As we discussed in the fall, for Donald Trump, winning a second term next year is about more than just power and ego; it's also about the statute of limitations.
After all, the president has been implicated in a variety of alleged criminal misdeeds, though Trump appears to be shielded from prosecution so long as he's in office. If he were to lose in 2020, that shield would disappear, and the prospect of an indictment would become quite real. Indeed, by most accounts, the only way for Trump to ensure he faces no criminal liability is for him to remain president for another four years.
As 2020 issues go, this one is obviously speculative. No one can say with confidence whether a prosecutor would even want to try to indict Trump after he leaves office.
It's far easier to say, however, that the Republican's legal liabilities are real, and if Biden wins the presidency, he will have to at least consider the possibility of seeing his predecessor face charges.
If that were to happen, Trump apparently shouldn't call the Oval Office looking for a favor.