Former Vice President Joe Biden called for President Donald Trump’s removal from office for the first time Wednesday.

“Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, said during a campaign event in Rochester, N.H. “He should be impeached.”

Biden’s remarks come ahead of Tuesday’s fourth Democratic presidential debate, at which Trump’s potential impeachment is expected to loom large, with all 12 candidates on stage now voicing support for it.

Biden had previously expressed lukewarm support for a formal impeachment inquiry, but his comments Wednesday marked the first time he’s come out in favor of a full-blown impeachment.

Trump was quick to hit back in a fact-challenged tweet.

“So pathetic to see Sleepy Joe Biden, who with his son, Hunter, and to the detriment of the American Taxpayer, has ripped off at least two countries for millions of dollars, calling for my impeachment — and I did nothing wrong,” Trump posted less than five minutes after Biden’s comments. “Joe’s Failing Campaign gave him no other choice!”

The rapidly developing House impeachment probe was sparked last month amid revelations that Trump and his allies tried to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden over unsubstantiated claims that he used his vice presidency pulpit to protect his son from being charged with corruption crimes in the eastern European country.

Since the impeachment investigation kicked off, Trump has publicly suggested China should also investigate the Bidens over similarly dubious claims of corruption.

There’s no evidence to support Trump’s allegations about Biden, who’s one of the front-runners in the 2020 Democratic race.

The anonymous CIA whistleblower who sounded the alarm on Trump’s infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy wrote in a complaint that the president’s pressure campaign amounted to an illegal attempt to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.

House Democrats argue Trump should be impeached over the dirt-digging operation as well as his concurrent efforts to get Ukraine to investigate unverified claims that anti-Trump Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton.

Biden raised some eyebrows last week when he refused to say whether he would vote to convict Trump in the Senate if he still served in the upper chamber.

Zac Petkanas, a veteran Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said Biden may have held out on backing impeachment for as long as he did because of his personal connection to the ongoing House proceedings.

“If I was on his team, I would be weighing if it looks personal to come out for impeachment or if it’s principled,” Petkanas told the New York Daily News. “Ultimately, though, it’s increasingly difficult to say that Donald Trump’s behavior is not impeachable. … So I wouldn’t want to be on a debate stage and say, ‘Yes, Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to interfere in the election, but, no, I don’t think he should be impeached.”

During his campaign appearance in New Hampshire, Biden said Trump’s Tuesday announcement that his administration will completely stonewall the impeachment inquiry is sufficient grounds for his removal alone.

“President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with the congressional inquiry,” he said. “He’s already convicted himself.”

The former vice president also had a theory for why Trump is trying to get foreign countries to investigate one of his chief political rivals.

“He’s basically a coward,” Biden said. “He’s afraid about just how badly I will beat him next November.”

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Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.