WASHINGTON – As President Donald Trump argues that Democrats will pay a political price for impeachment, aides and allies are trying to pressure more than two dozen House Democrats to vote against impeachment.
The president's reelection team, pro-Trump political action committees and the White House all have different lists, all revolving around the 31 Democrats who represent congressional districts Trump carried in 2016 – particularly 13 members in areas that have gone Republican in three or more recent presidential elections.
Democratic members are bombarded by pro-Trump ads threatening that a vote for impeachment will end their congressional careers – an effort that continued after the House Judiciary Committee voted Friday to recommend two articles of impeachment against the president.
White House officials are giving interviews to media outlets in the districts of Democrats they consider to be vulnerable to political pressure as a House impeachment vote approaches.
“The impeachment sham is increasingly unpopular with voters across the country who would prefer their elected officials work on the issues that matter to them," said Rick Gorka, the Republican National Committee's communication director for battleground states.
"These Democrats will pay a price in 2020 for their partisan games," he said.
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After Friday's party-line committee vote, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale vowed vengeance on Democrats: "The baseless, sham impeachment is just out-of-control partisan politics and the American people are rejecting it.”
The articles of impeachment are expected to be brought up for a vote on the floor of the Democratic-controlled House next week. Democrats accused Trump of abusing his power by holding up military aid and a potential White House meeting to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, the former vice president and a 2020 presidential candidate. In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky to "do us a favor" and urged him to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who once served on the board of Burisma, an energy company in Ukraine. Trump has insisted he was justified in calling for an investigation of the Bidens but he's also said he did not pressure Zelensky. He has called the impeachment inquiry a "hoax."
Voters will reward lawmakers who back impeachment, Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said.
"Most Americans know that Trump committed crimes, so GOP ads can't get voters to punish grand jurors in the House for sending down an indictment," Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the impeachment ads "aren't a strategy for politics. Their strategy is to please Trump's ego and demonstrate their loyalty to him."
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the full House will act "expeditiously" on two impeachment articles accusing the president of "abuse of power and obstruction of Congress."
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with The Cook Political Report, said she is skeptical the Trump efforts will yield many "no" votes on impeachment. Many of these lawmakers won Republican votes in the 2018 congressional races.
"Republican voters who supported them in 2018 aren't likely to abandon them in droves," Duffy said. "They probably aren't great fans of Trump anyway."
At least one House Democrat – Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey – has said he will vote against articles of impeachment.
America First Policies, the nonprofit arm of the pro-Trump America First Action PAC, said it released ads last week in 27 districts of Democratic lawmakers. Officials spent $2.26 million on newspaper, television and digital ads, including texts and Facebook posts, in a campaign dubbed "End the Witch Hunt,"
"This is our second wave of advertisements," said Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for America First Policies. "Our last campaign generated more than 34,000 calls into congressional offices."
The American Action Network, a House-focused, conservative outside group that opposes impeachment, said this week it would spend $1.5 million on television ads in 10 congressional districts, an addition to a buy of $7 million.
Gorka said the Republican National Committee is investing $350,000 in digital advertising targeting vulnerable House Democrats, bringing the total to nearly $11 million in paid advertising between the campaign and the RNC since the impeachment inquiry began.
Though the groups' target lists revolve around the 31 Democratic congressional districts won by Trump in 2016, most of the emphasis is on 13 House Democrats from districts that went Republican in at least the past three presidential elections.
They are: Jared Golden of Maine, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Andy Kim of New Jersey, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Max Rose of New York, Antonio Delgado of New York, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Ben McAdams of Utah and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
These and other Democrats are inundated with television, radio, newspaper and digital ads, as well as Facebook posts, phone texts and media interviews of Trump allies, campaign and administration officials.
Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, periodically tweets out a couple of targets.
In a warning to Oklahoma Rep. Horn on Dec. 5, Parscale wrote, "Nancy Pelosi is marching members of her caucus off the plank and into the abyss."
At a town hall, Horn said she hadn't decided what to do about Trump.
"I don't make preemptive decisions on how I'm going to vote on any bill," she said, "and I'm certainly not going to do that on something that is this serious or important."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment: Donald Trump allies target swing district Democrats