Politics & Government

Conservative group pressures Burr to call out Trump over Ukraine

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is the focus of an ad by a conservative group urging GOP members of Congress to condemn President Donald Trump over his actions with the president of Ukraine.

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 Burr.

“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?”

The group said documents from a government whistleblower suggest Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to force them to investigate a political rival and said documents suggest Trump may have illegally covered up this abuse of executive power.

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.”

Burr led a closed-door committee meeting Thursday on the matter. He promised a thorough, but not quick investigation.

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

Republicans for the Rule of Law 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 into 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.

“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, a North Carolina Republican, in a statement.

Rep. Mark Meadows, a staunch Trump ally, has been one of the leading voices denouncing Democrats for their latest move.

“There is no policy priority too important, no lack of evidence too glaring that will prevent Washington Democrats from going after this President,” Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said in a statement. “It has been their single-minded goal this entire Congress. They are an angry mob in search of validation.”

For more North Carolina government and politics news, listen to the Domecast politics podcast from The News & Observer and the NC Insider. You can find it on Megaphone, Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

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.