Punching back at Trump, Biden defends his Ukraine role

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says that his dealings with Ukraine took place in front of the whole world.

RENO, Nev. — Joe Biden intensified his counterattacks on President Donald Trump and defended his record, with top aides saying the former vice president won’t ignore or sidestep Trump’s attempts to smear him.

Biden’s more aggressive approach was on display late Wednesday in Nevada, where he unleashed one of his most forceful attacks yet against Trump and offered a detailed explanation of his vice presidential work that Trump is now trying to turn into a liability.

The Democratic presidential contender told hundreds of supporters that he conducted “a fully transparent policy ... in front of the whole world” when he pushed for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin.

“We weren’t pressing Ukraine to get rid of a tough prosecutor. We were pursuing Ukraine to replace a weak prosecutor who wouldn’t do the job,” Biden said of an Obama administration policy supported by other Western governments.

The remarks signal that Biden is feeling the pressure from Trump’s attacks. Previously, Biden had mostly avoided the details of Trump’s claims.

“You can’t assume that the American people know that this president is lying, so you have to fight back with the truth,” Biden campaign chairman Cedric Richmond said Thursday. “The VP is used to fighting bullies. He’s going to meet (Trump) where he is and make sure he clears up the record.”

Richmond said Biden now has little choice but to take Trump’s claims head on.

“This president is scared and he’s acting out,” Richmond said.

Biden’s campaign said Hunter Biden’s Ukraine affiliations were disclosed publicly at the time. He had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm that, at one point, was under Shokin’s scrutiny. That inquiry was dormant when Joe Biden ratcheted up pressure for Shokin’s ouster.

The elder Biden said then and now that he’s “never” talked to his son about his business dealings. The U.S. also had support internationally for its opposition to Shokin. Ukrainian officials, including Shokin’s successor, have since said the Bidens were never implicated in any wrongdoing

Richmond said it “would certainly help” for Obama to make a public statement explaining and defending Biden’s role for him in foreign affairs, even if it would draw more headlines. But Richmond said the campaign isn’t asking Obama for help.

“I’m not sure he has the duty to do (defend Biden) or the responsibility to do that,” Richmond said, “but to the extent that it is to defend his own ethical administration, I would set the record straight.”

Obama’s aides say he plans to remain neutral in the primary.

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