By Christina Zaho – Newsweek
Republicans for the Rule of Law, a conservative group whose stated purpose is “defending the institutions of our republic,” will run an advertisement on Fox News over the weekend to urge GOP lawmakers to hold Trump accountable for the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The highly anticipated 448-page report, with redactions, was released by Attorney General William Barr Thursday morning. The nearly two-year investigation resulted in 199 criminal charges, indicting 34 individuals—including six former Trump associates and three Russian companies.
While Mueller’s team did not accuse the president of a crime, it revealed ample evidence of wrongdoing by Trump and his inner circle, dating from his 2016 presidential campaign through his tenure in the Oval Office.
“It’s clear from the report today that there’s a lot of political interference that was attempted [by Trump],” Sarah Longwell, executive director of Republicans for the Rule of Law, told Newsweek. “This is not the end of the Mueller investigation, this is just the beginning. It looks like the Mueller report really is a road map for Congress. And that there was no exoneration, definitely obstruction.”
The group, which aims to “protect [Mueller’s] investigation from political interference by the president,” was established in March 2017 when reports began to emerge of Trump’s intentions to potentially fire Mueller. The documents released today revealed that Trump had indeed tried to dismiss Mueller in June 2017, but that then-White House counsel Don McGahn refused, saying he would rather resign.
Over the weekend, Republicans for the Rule of Law plan to air an advertisement on Fox News urging GOP lawmakers to hold Trump accountable for “lying” and “obstructing justice,” as Republicans did with President Bill Clinton more than 20 years ago, when a GOP-led House succesfully impeached Clinton on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate subsequently acquitted Clinton of all charges.
“The Mueller Report revealed multiple instances of President Trump lying and obstructing justice. Twenty years ago, Republicans denounced a Democratic president for lying and obstructing justice,” the 34-second advertisement’s opening reads, before cutting to old clips of GOP lawmakers condemning Clinton on Capitol Hill. “Republicans stood for the rule of law then. We should stand for the rule of law now,” the ad concludes.
The advertisement’s goal, according to Longwell, is to “encourage speaking up from Republicans.”
“They need to grapple with what’s in [the Mueller report], which is incredibly disturbing,” she said. “We’re not urging impeachment or any kind of action other than Congress, specifically Republicans, should join the Democrats, to investigate the matter for fully and come to some conclusion about accountability.”
Within the clip is footage of “Republicans talking about how you cannot lie to the American people, you cannot obstruct justice, you must tell the truth, that the president’s not above the law and we just believe those same rules very much still apply to this president,” said Longwell, adding that the group wanted to see Republicans “act like a congressional body with equal powers and to provide a check on a president, who clearly from this report does not respect the rule of law.”
Mueller explained in the report that his team could not establish that either Trump or his associates had conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The investigation did not conclude that Trump had obstructed justice, “largely because” his aides “declined to carry out orders.” But it did not exonerate the president.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the Mueller report stated. “We are unable to reach such a judgment.”
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests. While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Despite this, Attorney General Barr held a press conference Thursday morning in which he repeated the words “no collusion,” at least five times in 22 minutes. “There was no evidence of Trump campaign ‘collusion’ with the Russian government’s hacking,” Barr said.