Joe Biden has deflected questions about President Donald Trump’s allegations of improper behaviour during the Obama presidency and other conspiracy theories pushed by his top allies.
Speaking at a Yahoo News virtual town hall, Mr Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said Mr Trump is trying to distract voters from his inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 90,000 Americans.
Mr Trump has said the virus will disappear “like a miracle”.
Broadly dubbing his allegations “Obamagate”, the president has pointed to the legal case of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, suggesting that the “unmasking” of Mr Flynn’s name as part of legal US surveillance of foreign targets was criminal and motivated by partisan politics.
There is no evidence of that, and Mr Trump’s accusations misrepresent the facts of the case.
“Unmasking” of people in surveillance reports is a routine, legal activity in government.
But they do not often become public, and in the Flynn case, the president’s supporters point to it as evidence that loyalists to Mr Obama were out to undermine Mr Trump from the start.
The president himself has called it the “biggest political crime and scandal in the history of the USA.”
“This is his pattern. Diversion, diversion, diversion, diversion,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday. “The greatest crime? I mean, my Lord.”
Mr Trump’s cries of scandal come as the president and many top Republicans have used increasingly harsh rhetoric against Mr Biden- hoping to conjure doubt in voters’ minds as the election season begins to heat up.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee led by Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson will vote on whether to issue a subpoena as part of an investigation into Mr Biden’s son Hunter and his work for a Ukrainian natural gas company that grew out of Mr Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.
Over the weekend, Mr Trump’s two adult sons appeared to spread baseless, online conspiracy theories suggesting other criminal activity by Mr Biden.
Asked about that on Tuesday, Mr Biden called online posts about the matter “sick”.
“People know me. The good news is the bad news. They know me. They know my faults, they know my talents,” he said.
Pointing to his decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president, he continued, “It’s hard to lay on me some of the things that are just totally out of sync with anything in my whole life that anyone has ever said about me.”
Mr Biden was also asked about Mr Trump’s firing of Steve Linick as the State Department’s inspector general.
Some Republicans have defended the move, arguing that it was within the president’s rights, but Mr Biden and other Democrats say it is part of a larger White House effort to undermine government oversight.
Mr Biden promised not to fire any inspector general should he be elected, saying those positions were “designed to make government honest”.