Rep. Dean Phillips, who is considering challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination, on Sunday suggested that the Hunter Biden investigation has compromised the president’s image.
Speaking about the Justice Department's probe of Biden's son, Phillips said in an exclusive interview on "Meet the Press": “I don’t think the President is corrupt. I think the investigation will show that."
“But this is the important part: It’s the image, it’s what the news will do,” said Phillips, a member of the Democratic leadership team. “We know what era we live in — in partisanship. It is the attachment to the president, most people aren’t watching ‘Meet the Press’ every weekend.”
Phillips reiterated his belief that Biden shouldn’t run for re-election in 2024, but he also made clear that he respects the president. "It’s about how people feel. People want to turn the page. I think that’s fair to say," he said.
“As a Democrat, I adore Joe Biden. He saved this country. He can cement his legacy,” Phillips continued. “My real call to action right now is not about me. The call to action is to ask the president to pass the torch."
Asked by NBC News' Chuck Todd who he would like to see challenge Biden, Phillips replied: “I would like to see a moderate governor, hopefully from the heartland, from one of the four states that Democrats will need.”
The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Phillips’ remarks came days after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed David Weiss as special counsel in the ongoing probe of Hunter Biden.
Weiss, who was already overseeing the investigation, was announced as special counsel on Friday after he requested the title earlier last week.
Phillips has publicly stated his opposition to a second Biden term, joining a handful of other Democrats who have openly called for a contested primary with younger candidates rather than handing the 2024 nomination to the 80-year-old Biden.
“I have respect for Joe Biden ... despite some mistakes and some missteps, despite his age, I think he’s a man of decency, of good principle, of compassion, of empathy and of strength,” Phillips said last year in a radio interview on WCCO’s “The Chad Hartman Show."
“But to answer your question directly, which I know is quite rare, Chad, no, I don’t,” he said. “I think the country would be well served by a new generation of compelling, well-prepared, dynamic Democrats to step up.”
The Minnesota Democrat, who has been in the House since 2019, recently met with donors in New York about his potential long-shot primary challenge against Biden in 2024.
NBC News reported in June that Weiss had reached a plea agreement with Hunter Biden, who was expected to plead guilty to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes. But the deal fell apart last month over confusion about a separate felony gun possession charge.
Abbe Lowell, Hunter Biden’s attorney, blamed prosecutors, saying they changed “their decision on the fly,” referring to the derailment of the plea deal during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
“One, they wrote something and weren’t clear what they meant. Two, they knew what they meant, and misstated it to counsel. Or third, they changed their view as they were standing in court in Delaware,” he said.
Lowell also expressed confidence that no new evidence or criminal charges would emerge.
“I’m confident that if this prosecutor does what has been done for the last five years, look at the facts, the evidence and the law, then the only conclusion can be what the conclusion was on July 26,” he said. "There’s no new evidence to be found.”
“Some of these transactions are years old. They’ve had people in the grand jury, they’ve had data that was provided to them. I don’t know the possibility exists after this kind of painstaking investigation for them to be, ‘Oh, my gosh, there’s a new piece of evidence which changes,’" Lowell added. "The only thing that will change is the scrutiny on some of the charges, for example, the gun charge.”