During a town hall event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday evening, President Joe Biden expressed a desire to move on from putting focus on his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
Biden did not bring up Trump’s name voluntarily during much of the event, which was hosted by CNN. Often, he would refer to Trump as “the former guy” when he couldn’t avoid talking about him.
When discussing how every former president has called him since he’s entered office, save for one, the current president even refused to say who that one individual may be, though it’s largely understood that only Trump has exhibited such churlish behavior toward Biden.
When asked directly about Trump’s impeachment and other actions that happened while he was president, Biden finally used his name begrudgingly in his response.
“I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump,” the president said. “For four years, all that’s been in the news is Trump. The next four years, I want to make sure all the news is the American people.”
That line drew applause from the socially distanced crowd that had gathered for the event in Milwaukee. It’s likely that a lot of people watching at home felt similarly.
A recent Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted from February 14-15 shows that 54 percent of all registered voters say that they hope Trump no longer plays a role in Republican politics, indicating they hope the GOP itself decides they want to move away from the former president.
That may not happen, however, as Republican-leaning respondents in the poll also indicated they want Trump to stay involved in a major way, with 57 percent saying so.
Biden’s words on Tuesday, in some ways, mirror what former President Barack Obama said when it came to his predecessor, former President George W. Bush. Many were upset with Obama when he said it was more appropriate to move on rather than hold Bush and other officials within his administration accountable for the illegal actions they perpetrated, particularly when it came to potential war crimes and breaches of personal information.
“I don’t believe anybody is above the law,” Obama said in 2009, just prior to taking office. “On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
“My instinct is for us to focus on, how do we make sure that, moving forward, we are doing the right thing,” Obama added.
After Trump’s acquittal in his impeachment trial this past weekend, many Democrats are echoing Obama’s sentiments from 11 years ago, as well as those expressed by Biden on Tuesday night, saying it’s time to move on from the actions of a predecessor, even if many consider them egregious. In addition to the call Biden made to get beyond Trump this week, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) suggested it was a fruitless endeavor to try to pursue keeping the former commander-in-chief accountable.
“We don’t put presidents in jail, ex-presidents. We just don’t do that,” Tester recently said. “We never have in the past. I don’t know why we’d start now.”
Many have disagreed, however, stating that moving on is an improper way to proceed, as it gives the dangerous impression that future administrations can get away with behaving similarly to Trump while in office, including siccing a violent mob on lawmakers for resisting his attempts to overturn an election he lost to Biden.
“I wish we could move on. I wish we could focus on unity & healing,” journalist Steven Beschloss tweeted on Monday. “But until Trump’s crimes are prosecuted, until justice is served, moving on ensures these problems will continue to corrode our democracy & harm our capacity for the best of America to triumph.”
Some Democrats have indicated they may seek other ways to ensure Trump is punished, particularly for his incitement of a mob of loyalists on January 6 to attack the U.S. Capitol building. Rep. Jake Auchincloss (D-Massachusetts), for example, believes that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allows Congress to forbid those who engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the country from holding federal office, could be utilized.
“Going forward there are other avenues for accountability, including the 14th Amendment to ensure that Donald Trump can never run for president again, and I think we should pursue that,” Auchincloss recently said.
Beyond federal action, officials at state levels are also pursuing actions to hold Trump accountable. In Georgia, a formal investigation has begun into a telephone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperbger, where the former president had tried to coerce the Republican official to “find” him 11,780 votes in order to overturn the results of the presidential contest of last November and afford him a victory over Biden in Georgia. The request is a clear violation of state law, which forbids engaging in fraud or persuading officials to commit fraud on your behalf.
Trump also faces legal worries in New York, where discrepancies in his tax statements and loan requests to several banks suggest he may have engaged in financial fraud.
While a number of Democrats, including Biden, may want to move forward from discussing Trump, these investigations, including an inquiry in Congress regarding the attack on the Capitol itself, will likely mean he will at least have to be talked about intermittently, at the bare minimum, during the next few months and years to come. Moreover, with Republican voters wanting Trump to remain relevant in right-wing politics, he will likely continue to remain a topic of discussion, regardless of how Biden feels about it.