RICHMOND HEIGHTS — Former Vice President Joe Biden said here Sunday night that Democrats need to defeat President Donald Trump in next year’s election to “literally restore the soul of this country.”
Biden, at a private home for a fundraiser in his campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, didn’t directly comment on an unfolding controversy over whether Trump abused his office by reportedly asking Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden’s son and his business activities there.
But, referring to Trump and next year’s election, Biden said, “We know what this guy’s going to be. It’ll be ugly, it’ll be mean, it’ll be degrading.
“There’s nothing more important for us all to do but to make sure he does not prevail,” he said. “Given half a chance, I think I could beat this guy like a drum.”
Biden, who spoke for about 45 minutes, repeated a theme he has used often — that Trump has divided the country with remarks such as initially saying there were “very fine people on both sides” of a violent 2017 confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and protesters.
“You know, the words presidents use matter, they matter,” Biden said.
Biden said that “we can handle four years of Donald Trump” but electing him to another term could “fundamentally change the character of this country.”
Biden also said the Republican president’s policies, such as the tax cut approved by Congress, had hurt the middle class. He said it amounts to an excuse “to eliminate the safety net” by reducing money available for social programs.
The former vice president also took a swipe at some fellow Democrats by repeating his criticism of what he said was the $3.5 trillion a year annual cost of “Medicare for All” plans.
Two major rivals for the nomination — Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — support such measures. “We have to, in order to win, in my view, level with the American people,” Biden said.
Biden favors offering a less expensive “public option” that would give most people the choice of a government health care plan as an alternative to private insurance but wouldn’t require it.
More than 50 people attended the fundraiser, at the home of Clayco chief executive Bob Clark, a longtime major Democratic donor, and his wife, Jane.
Clark has long-standing ties to Biden. In 2011, Biden as vice president headlined a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at Clark’s home. Clark also was a contributor to former President Barack Obama’s campaigns for the White House.
Campaign officials did not release the amount raised at the event.
The controversy over Trump and Ukraine is reportedly part of a whistleblower complaint, but the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, has refused to share details with Congress, citing presidential privilege.
Biden in Iowa on Saturday said Trump “deserves to be investigated” for “trying to intimidate a foreign leader, if that’s what happened.”
There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son, who worked for a Ukrainian gas company.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.