Joe Biden said on Wednesday that he would not order his administration to investigate Donald Trump if the former vice president is elected in 2020.
"Look, I would not direct my Justice Department like this president does. I would let them make their independent judgment," Biden said during the fifth Democratic debate in Atlanta.
"I would not dictate who should be prosecuted or who should be exonerated. That's not the role of the president of the United States," Biden said.
Biden said he would do "whatever is determined by the attorney general."
"If that was the judgment, that he violated the law and he should be in fact criminally prosecuted, then so be it, but I would not direct it," Biden said.
The comments came as Democrats pursue a historic impeachment investigation into whether Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to open investigations into Biden and his family.
Democrats have accused the president of wielding the American foreign policy apparatus to damage Biden's political prospects.
Earlier in the debate, Biden said the hearings showed that Trump "doesn't want me to be the nominee."
Trump has accused Democrats of pursuing a "witch hunt" against him and denied any wrongdoing.
The last president to leave office in the face of impeachment was pardoned by his successor.
President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974 for all crimes he "has committed or may have committed" while president.