Former Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not pardon President Donald Trump if elected and insisted any prosecutorial decisions would be left to a more independent Justice Department.
Answering questions in a virtual town hall-style event on MSNBC Thursday, the Democratic presidential hopeful was asked by a voter about whether he'd follow the lead of former President Gerald Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon in large part to help the nation move beyond the Watergate scandal.
Biden, while not speaking to any specific potential charge, committed to ensuring that any prosecutorial decisions would be dictated by the law, in contrast to what he called the "dereliction of duty" by Trump and his attorney general, William Barr.
Members of the Biden family
Members of the Biden family
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) takes the oath of office from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as his wife Jill Biden holds the family bible and family members look on at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington January 20, 2013. Shown are R. Hunter Biden (front row), Maisy Biden (black cardigan), Noami Biden (red shirt), Finnegan Biden (maroon and black dress), Natalie Biden (front row, purple dress), Kathleen Biden, Hunter Biden, Ashley Biden, Howard Krein, Beau Biden and Hallie Biden.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden joined by his family members walk along the national road named after his late son Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, in the village of Sojevo, Kosovo, August 17, 2016. President Joe Biden is the guest of honor during the street dedication ceremony naming the national road Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) talks with his son, U.S. Army Capt Beau Biden, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad July 4, 2009. Biden met U.S. troops preparing to mark their Independence Day holiday on Saturday, on the third day of a visit he has used to urge Iraqi politicians to do more to reconcile rival factions.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L-R), Vice President Joe Biden and Biden's son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University in Washington, January 30, 2010.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) is joined by his wife Jill Biden (4th L) and their family for remarks at a volunteer project to assemble care kits for U.S. military service members and veterans at a Unite America in Service event at the National Guard Armory in Washington, January 19, 2013. Biden and his family volunteered for the event during the National Day of Service as part of the 57th Presidential Inauguration.
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden (D-DE) watches his grandson Hunter wave at the crowd after Biden spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado August 27, 2008.
(REUTERS/ Rick Wilking)
Dr. Jill Biden (C), wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, waves onstage with Biden family members at the Kids Inaugural concert for children and military families, one of the events ahead of the second-term inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington January 19, 2013.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden walks with his sons Beau (L) and Hunter (2nd R) and his wife Jill down Pennsylvania Avenue during the inaugural parade in Washington January 20, 2009.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) holds hands with his wife Jill along with relatives as they walk on a road named after their late son Joseph 'Beau' Bide in the village of Sojevo on August 17, 2016. Biden said that the United States would remain a 'champion' of an independent Kosovo, but he firmly warned its leaders against the 'cancer' of corruption. On his first visit to Kosovo since 2009 -- the year after it unilaterally declared independence from Serbia -- Biden held talks with President Hashim Thaci and other leaders before a dedication ceremony naming a road after his late son.
(ARMEND NIMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
US vice president Joe Biden (C) walks with his son in law Howard Krien (L) during a visit to a local food court in Singapore on July 26, 2013. Biden is on a two-day official visit to Singapore after India where officials say he will tackle tensions over the disputed South China Sea 'head on.'
(MOHD FYROL/AFP/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden (3rd L) and his three grandchildren look at a koala during a visit to Taronga Zoo in Sydney on July 19, 2016. US and Australian troops plan to step up training so they are 'fully prepared' to answer challenges in the Pacific, Biden said amid rising tensions over Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.
(JESSICA HROMAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden (C) and family attend the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
(Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012.
Chief Executive Officer of the AFL Gillon McLachlan, President of the MCC Stephen Smith and Chairman of the AFL Mike Fitzpatrick pose for a photograph with US Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughters during the 2016 AFL Round 17 match between the Carlton Blues and the West Coast Eagles at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 17, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia.
(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 13: Dr. Jill Biden and her grand-daughter Natalie Biden try samples of food as they meet with students and staff during a visit to the Lycee Guillaume Tirel on June 13, 2016 in Paris, France. The college serves as a school for cooking and hotel services.
(Photo by Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden, carrying his grandson Hunter Biden, departs following a Sunday morning service at Holy Trinity Church, a Roman Catholic congregation in Washington, January 18, 2009.
Second lady Dr. Jill Biden and her grand-daughter Natalie attend mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral on June 12, 2016 in Paris, France.
(Photo by Owen Franken/Corbis via Getty Images)
Vice-President Joe Biden and sons Hunter Biden (L) and Beau Biden walk in the Inaugural Parade January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the US.
(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, wife and Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden and family members attend University Of Pennsylvania Commencement keynote address delivered by Lin Manuel Miranda during University of Pennsylvania 260th Commencement Ceremony at Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania on May 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage)
US Vice President Joe Biden (C) leaves the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with his family on March 9, 2016 during his visit in Jerusalem's Old City.
(RONEN ZVULUN/AFP/Getty Images)
Vice President of the United States Joe Biden (C), his wife Dr. Jill Biden (C-L), and his granddaughter Naomi Biden (C-R) visit Arasta Bazaar, at Sultan Ahmed in Istanbul, Turkey on January 22, 2016.
(Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
US Vice President Joe Biden (2nd L) stands with his daughter Ashley Biden (L), his wife Jill Biden (2nd R) and son-in-law Howard Krien (R) after being being presented with a new orchid hybrid plant (pictured C) named 'Joe and Jill Biden' during a visit to the National Orchid Garden in Singapore on July 26, 2013. Biden is on a two-day official visit to Singapore after India where officials say he will tackle tensions over the disputed South China Sea 'head on.'
(MOHD FYROL/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill wave as they listen to Biden's son, Beau Biden, address the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 6, 2012.
(REUTERS/Philip Scott Andrews)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (C) buys an ice-cream at a shop as he tours a Hutong alley with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden (R) and son Hunter Biden in Beijing December 5, 2013.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as he is greeted by his daughter Ashley before accepting a Father of the Year award in New York, U.S., June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Joe Biden (L) is sworn in as the Vice President of the U.S by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (not in photo) as the Biden children Beau (R), Hunter (C), and Ashley watch in Washington, January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (2nd L) and his wife Jill Biden (2nd R), pose for a photo with their daughter Ashley and son-in-law Dr. Howard Krein in front of an orchid named "Dendrobium Joe and Jill Biden" in their honour, at the National Orchid Garden in Singapore July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Tim Chong (SINGAPORE - Tags: POLITICS ENVIRONMENT)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 7: Ashley Biden and Joe Biden attend Gilt x Livelihood Launch Event at 6 St. John's Lane on February 7, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Aurora Rose/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
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"It's hands off completely. The attorney general is not the president's lawyer. It's the people's lawyer," Biden said. "We never saw anything like the prostitution of that office like we see it today."
During the exchange, Biden was also asked to clarify whether he was aware of or participated in decisions related to incoming Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn during his final weeks as vice president in 2017. The president and his allies this week have accused Biden and former President Barack Obama of a conspiracy to entrap Flynn as part of a larger scheme to undercut the incoming administration, which they have dubbed "Obamagate."
The Justice Department announced last week their intent to drop the case against Flynn, a decision the judge in the case is now weighing after Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI.
"I was never a part or had any knowledge of any criminal investigation into Flynn while I was in office, period. Not one single time," Biden told O'Donnell.
The answer clarified what he had told ABC's George Stephanopoulos days earlier when asked about a January 5 meeting in the Oval Office in which Flynn was discussed. Biden was asked how he didn't know anything about the FBI investigating Flynn at the time when "you were reported to be at a Jan. 5, 2017, meeting where you and the president were briefed on the FBI's plan to question Michael Flynn over those conversations he had with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak."
That question was not accurate, according to a senior Obama administration official with direct knowledge of the meeting, who said the meeting did not include any discussion of an FBI investigation into Flynn or of FBI questioning of Flynn about his contacts with the Russians.
Much of Thursday's hour-long Q&A with Biden was focused on how he as president would respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and included a notable personnel commitment.
"I hope if I'm president that Dr. Fauci will stay on in the administration," Biden said, offering a vote of confidence in the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as Trump has ratcheted up criticism of him.