Trump campaign runs misleading anti-impeachment Facebook ads originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
The Trump campaign is flooding Facebook with anti-impeachment ads that misleadingly imply House Democrats are pushing "treason" allegations against President Donald Trump in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
The ads, which started running on the social media site Thursday, ask for donations and float the word "treason" in two different ways. One set of ads implies Democrats are making "treason" allegations against the president, while other ads could be interpreted as the campaign claiming Democrats pushing impeachment are treasonous—a loaded word the president himself has used against his critics.
"TREASON? First, the Left cried Quid Pro Quo, then bribery, and now TREASON? This entire HOAX has been JERRY-RIGGED by the Radical Democrats and we cannot put up with it any longer," one ad reads. The ad appears to be referencing House Democrats evolving impeachment argument against the president, which has at times both focused on quid pro quo and bribery allegations.
In a video posted with the campaign Facebook ads, President Trump calls impeachment a "coup" by Democrats who are "going after me because I'm fighting for you."
However, there’s no evidence that Democrats are pursuing treason allegations against Trump, as part of their impeachment inquiry, which the campaign’s ads imply.
While Democrats remain divided over the scope of potential impeachment charges against the president, House Judiciary Committee Democrats have suggested they could pursue articles on abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of justice and obstruction of Congress — not treason.
The Trump campaign stands by the ads, telling ABC News the "treason" referenced in the ads refers to a line in Professor Pamela Karlan's opening statement at last week's House Judiciary impeachment hearing where the Stanford professor, who Democrats called to testify, listed the impeachable offenses detailed in the U.S. Constitution: Bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors, and treason.
"The ad is completely factual and the campaign stands by it," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News. "If liberals don’t want us to point out that they accused the president of treason maybe they shouldn’t orchestrate hearings that do that."
Karlan's comment came in the context of her arguing that an "impeachable offense," as detailed by the framers of the constitution, "is a president’s decision to sacrifice the national interest for his own private ends."
" 'Treason,' the first thing listed, lay in an individual’s giving aid to foreign enemies—that is, putting a foreign adversary’s interests above the United States," the professor said quoting the Constitution.
However, the two ads in question from the Trump campaign that reference "treason" do not mention Karlan and instead call out "Radical Democrats" and specifically House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Judiciary Committee's Democratic chairman, Jerry Nadler.
When asked by ABC News about the Trump campaign ads and whether treason is being considered as a possible charge against Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the president's campaign
"I'm not responding to anything about the president's campaign. They have no association to the facts, truth, or the Constitution of the United States. So I'm not responding to anything they do,” Pelosi told ABC News.
In another set of ads, the campaign questions the Democrats' motives for moving forward with impeachment.
"TREASON? Jerry Nadler has taken over this Impeachment Hearing Scam and has turned it into even more of a circus than it already was," the ad reads.
The ads including the word "treason" continue to heighten the president's anti impeachment language, given that according to federal law, those who commit treason against the United States “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined.”
According to the U.S. Constitution, "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."
Trump does have a history himself of using the word to fire back at his critics—including in May when the president accused federal investigators of "treason" over the FBI's investigation into Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. In regards to the Russia investigation, Democrats have also invoked the word in the past, with Hillary Clinton's former running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, saying in 2017 that the president's son Donald Trump Jr. may have committed treason by taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer under the assumption of getting dirt on Clinton.
Since Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry back in September, the president's campaign has progressively ratcheted up its language pushing back against House Democrats. The word “treason” popped up in a fundraising email that was blasted to millions of supporters earlier this week.
“TREASON?” read the subject line of an email asking for donations sent out on Wednesday, which would go on to suggest Democrats were pushing treason allegations against the president similar to the Facebook ads posted Friday.
In another fundraising email sent to supporters earlier on Friday, the Trump campaign used some of its most incendiary language yet—declaring to the president's supporters that impeachment is a "war" and Democrats are trying to "STEAL" the 2020 election.
“They all HATE you,” the fundraising email reads. “That’s why they want to steal your vote."
The Trump campaign’s Facebook ads come as the social media giant faces increased scrutiny over its policy of not removing misleading or false political ads, and as Twitter's recent ban on political advertising ramps up pressure ahead of the 2020 election.
Facebook did not immediately provide comment when asked but pointed ABC News to the company's policy of not sending political ads to third party fact checkers to review.
The Trump campaign maintains that impeachment will be a big win for their reelection hopes next year. In the 72 hours after Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry announcement, the team said it raised $15 million in small-dollar donations, including 50,000 new donors.
This year the campaign has spent $16.5 million on Facebook ads, according to data from Facebook's political ad transparency reports. The campaign has dropped over $2 million on Facebook ads focused on impeachment.
ABC News' Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report