WASHINGTON — A Republican group plans to run ads in the home states of nearly two dozen GOP senators during this week’s impeachment trial, pressuring them to vote to convict former President Donald Trump and bar him from holding office again.
The Republican Accountability Project is spending a half-million dollars on television advertisements that will begin airing on Fox News starting Monday and are aimed at 22 senators the group views as potential votes for conviction. The group has pledged to spend $50 million defending GOP lawmakers who cross Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has signaled he is open to convicting Trump but recently voted along with 44 of his GOP colleagues to dismiss the trial as unconstitutional, is among the lawmakers featured in the ads.
“Sen. McConnell, Donald Trump incited an attack on our Capitol. It’s up to you to convict and disqualify him,” the narrator of the ad that will run in Kentucky says.
Individualized versions of the ads that use footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Trump’s remarks to supporters on alleged election fraud and corruption earlier that day will air throughout the first week of the impeachment trial, as will a generic national ad calling on Republicans in the Senate to vote for conviction.
“We’re going to the Capitol to make your voices heard, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness,” Trump says in the commercials. “We will stop the steal. If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.
The ad set to air in North Carolina targets both of the state’s senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. A Kansas ad calls out Sen. Jerry Moran. And in Texas, the ad is aimed at Sen. John Cornyn.
Statewide commercials also put pressure on Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, John Thune of South Dakota, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of Wyoming, among others.
The Republican Accountability Project also plans to drive a mobile billboard around the Capitol complex, which is still under heavy security, on Tuesday and Wednesday to encourage Trump’s conviction.
“This is Mitch McConnell and Republican senators’ last chance to put a stake through Donald Trump’s political future,” Sarah Longwell, the executive director of the project’s umbrella group, Defending Democracy Together, told McClatchy.
“If you convict him and you bar him from holding office in the future, not only does it mean he can’t run again as a Republican nominee, but he can’t create his own party and run as the Patriot Party nominee,” she added.
After only five Republican senators voted to proceed with Trump’s trial last month, opponents of the former president have an uphill climb to secure at least 17 GOP votes that will likely be needed to secure a conviction.
While Longwell acknowledged that many of the senators her group is targeting are “longshots,” she said they believe it is possible that as evidence is presented during the trial, McConnell could argue to his caucus that Trump must be kept from ever holding office again.
“It is both the right thing to do morally, it is also the right thing for them to do politically,” Longwell said. “If they do not take this shot at convicting Trump and barring him from holding public office, he is going to continue to run their party for the foreseeable future.”
The House moved swiftly in January to vote to impeach Trump while he was still in office following the Capitol riot. Ten House Republicans, including Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Tom Rice of South Carolina, voted for impeachment.
The Senate is slated to begin its trial on Tuesday. A conviction would require support from two-thirds of the senators in a 100-member body that is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats.
Trump’s legal team has argued that conviction and attempts to keep the former president from serving in the White House again are unconstitutional because the impeachment trial is taking place after his term ended.