Yarmuth "unsure" if Joe Biden would be better for Democrats than Hillary Clinton in 2016

08/25/2015 11:12 PM

After his recent criticism of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, says Vice President Joe Biden’s entry in the race “could cause a lot of problems for a lot of Democrats (with) split loyalties.”

Speaking to Pure Politics on Tuesday, Yarmuth said he’s “not sure yet” if a run from Biden would be better for Democrats seeking to keep the White House.

“Joe is very popular. He is a great public servant,” Yarmuth said. (3:53) “I’ve known him since he came to the Senate in 1972. He’s a wonderful man, and I think he’d be a great President.

“That being said, he’s 72 years old … and he has not been scrutinized nearly as much as Hillary Clinton. I suspect he wouldn’t be nearly as controversial a candidate, but he also may not be as strong a candidate.”

Yarmuth, who has supported Clinton’s run, said if Biden does not mount a campaign for the White House and Clinton is cleared of wrongdoing in her continuing email troubles, he will endorse the former secretary of state.

However, a Biden campaign would likely mean Kentucky’s lone federal Democrat would not endorse anyone in the race because of his strong personal affinity of the vice president and former U.S. senator. Yarmuth said that could be the case for many Washington lawmakers with split allegiances.

In an interview with WHAS-TV last week, Yarmuth made national headlines when he told political reporter Joe Arnold that ongoing questions about Clinton’s private email server could “upend” her campaign.

“What I said seemed to me to be fairly obvious that if it turns out that Hillary Clinton did what she says she did and there are no laws broken then this will go away fairly quickly after that determination is made,” Yarmuth said. “If the FBI comes out and finds something where she broke the law or mishandled sensitive information, then I think she’s got a serious problem with her campaign.”

Clinton’s emails are part of an FBI probe into whether classified emails found their way into a private email server used by Clinton during her time as secretary of state.

The Democratic presidential front-runner has been dogged by reporters in the presidential race since early March when the New York Times reported Clinton may have broken State Department rules by using her private email server.

Clinton tried to quash the inquires in a news conference just a week later after a speech at the United Nations.

Since that time Clinton has been forced to repeatedly address the email server and her personal emails. Most recently Clinton was forced to abandon a press conference in Las Vegas, Nev., when reporters repeatedly questioned her about the server.

“I know that she has mishandled this from the beginning,” Yarmuth said. “My guess is that when the story started to unfold she really didn’t think there was much to it, so she kind of tried to brush it off and she ended up not being precise with her answers and she had to come back and modify answers, which gives the appearance that she’s hiding something or not being truthful.”

Yarmuth said Clinton has to find a way to move past the ordeal, but he’s unsure how Clinton can proceed until she has been cleared of wrongdoing by authorities.

As the email controversy escalates, Yarmuth wanted to make clear that if Clinton violated the law she should pay the price. But even if the information on the server may be classified, it may not necessarily mean that the information impacts national security.

The congressman is privy to classified briefings, but he said the reason something is classified is not always readily apparent.

“Classified does not necessarily mean sensitive information. … It can be something as simple as a document contains an embarrassing statement or a thing that reflects badly on the State Department or Treasury Department, or whatever it might be,” Yarmuth said. “There’s no standard for classifying information.”

“I even remember Michelle Bachmann saying the one insightful thing I ever heard her say when in a briefing she asked, ‘What that you just said was classified?’ and they said, ‘Nothing,’ and she said, ‘Why didn’t you just have a press conference?’” he added.

“Or we hear what was supposedly classified information, and then the next day it’s in the newspaper.”

Watch the interview below for more on the presidential race including Yarmuth’s analysis of Donald Trump’s popularity, plus whether or not he believes Trump is a Republican.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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