Politics & Government

Conservative group to pressure Republicans to call out Trump over Ukraine

A conservative group plans to launch a series of ads this weekend urging House and Senate Republicans to condemn President Donald Trump for prodding the president of Ukraine to investigate a political rival.

Republicans for the Rule of Law will spend $1 million — its biggest ad buy to date — on a series of TV and digital ads that will target more than 20 members of Congress, including Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Republicans in Congress must condemn this behavior without reservation,” said Republicans for the Rule of Law legal advisor and spokesman Chris Truax. ”It is no longer about whether Republicans believe President Trump or whether they support his policies. It’s about whether they support his admitted abuse of power and his efforts to secure a foreign government’s help in an American election. President Trump sees nothing wrong with his behavior.

“In fact, he’s proud of it. The question now is, are Republicans?” Truax asked.

The 30-second ad calls Trump’s actions an “abuse of power” and warns it will happen again “unless Republicans ... stand up and say it’s wrong.”

The Senate intelligence committee has been looking into the matter and Burr, who led a closed-door committee meeting Thursday, has been circumspect.

“Don’t expect us to move at light speed, that’ll probably happen in the House,” Burr said. “But the committee is committed to making sure we get to the bottom of what questions need answered.”

The group in August sought to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to put election security legislation up for a vote in the Senate, airing ads that targeted the Kentucky Republican and four other Republican senators in their home states. McConnell last week said he’ll back a measure to give states another $250 million to upgrade their voting systems to fend off foreign intervention.

The group’s members include former Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, a “NeverTrump” Republican who for months has encouraged primary challengers to Trump.

The ads come as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this week that the House will launch a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, charging that he’s betrayed his oath of office in asking Ukraine to open a corruption investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Republicans have largely been supportive of Trump, criticizing Democrats for launching an impeachment inquiry before learning all the facts.

“Routine diplomacy,” Rep. Andy Barr, R-Kentucky told NPR of Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Biden and his son’s involvement in Ukraine.

“Democrats don’t care what the transcript says or what the facts are because they’ve already promised their fringe, left-wing base that they’ll stop at nothing until they impeach our duly elected president,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina.

Brian Murphy contributed to this report.
Lesley Clark works out of the McClatchy Washington bureau, covering all things Kentucky for McClatchy’s Lexington Herald-Leader. A former reporter for McClatchy’s Miami Herald, she also spent several years covering the White House.
Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.