President Joe Biden won’t be among the anticipated millions of Americans watching the U.S. Senate‘s second impeachment trial of Donald Trump over the former president’s alleged role in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6.
“I am not,” Biden told reporters Tuesday when asked if he’d be tuning in. “The Senate has their job and they are about to begin it and I am sure they are going to conduct themselves well. That’s all I am going to say about impeachment.”
Biden has spent recent weeks avoiding taking a firm stance on impeachment—or even really acknowledging it much.
“Joe Biden is the president—he’s not a pundit,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday as the trial started less than two miles away at the U.S. Capitol. “He’s not going to opine on the back-and-forth arguments, nor is he watching them that taking place in the Senate.”
Trump faces conviction and a possible ban on seeking future office after thousands of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to disrupt the certification of Biden’s election. Trump, who cited baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and refused to concede the race for weeks, had urged people to travel to Washington, D.C. for a “wild” protest and spoke at a rally leading up to the Capitol siege.
The House Democrats who are leading the prosecution’s case against Trump opened Tuesday’s trial with a dramatic 13-minute video montage of violent scenes from the day. While the tense video and impeachment arguments trended on Twitter, the Biden administration didn’t appear to acknowledge them online.
Biden’s public schedule for Tuesday included several meetings throughout the day with Vice President Kamala Harris, COVID-19 advisers and economic and business leaders.
Biden’s coronavirus task force held a newly scheduled virtual briefing with reporters, and Psaki held her daily briefing.
But the topic du jour—the unprecedented impeachment of a president who’s no longer in office—only came up when pressed by reporters. During her briefing, Psaki quickly pivoted to the administration’s other priorities, including Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and getting more members of his administration confirmed to permanent roles.
“This is obviously a big story in the country—no one’s denying that here,” Psaki said. “Our focus and the president’s focus is on putting people back to work [and] getting the pandemic under control and that means we’re not going to weigh in on every question about the impeachment trial.”
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee also urged Biden to weigh in, calling on the Democratic president to tell Senate leaders to call off the trial.
While he has avoided a clear judgement call, Biden has said he supports the Senate moving forward with the trial, even though Trump is no longer in office.
“He made clear in that statement that he felt the process should proceed,” Psaki said. “His view is his role should be currently focused on the needs of the American people.”