A Democratic Super PAC is re-airing digital ads calling on two Republican senators to back an independent probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, following former F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s firing Tuesday night.
Comey was leading the agency’s investigation into Russian interference and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign team colluded with the Russians. Trump fired Comey Monday night, purportedly for how he handled an investigation into Hillary Clinton, raising questions about the future of the Russia probe.
The surprise move prompted Senate Democrats to renew calls for a special prosecutor to lead the Justice Department’s investigation. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are conducting their own probes, but some lawmakers have also renewed calls for an independent commission or special committee to investigate Russian meddling.
American Bridge, a Democratic-leaning Super PAC, is re-airing digital ads it launched in February, calling on Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, both GOP senators up for re-election in 2018, to support an independent commission.
“This unprecedented interference by Trump into the FBI’s Russia investigation makes the need for a truly independent investigation even clearer,” American Bridge President Jessica Mackler said in a statement. “Republicans like Dean Heller and Jeff Flake who stay silent now are guilty of moral cowardice that imperils our national security.”
The digital ads will be air on YouTube and other social media sites over the next week. American Bridge declined to disclose the size of ad buy because the group is still determining the scope of the campaign.
The ads include the phone numbers for Heller and Flake’s offices, encouraging voters to call the lawmakers.
“Donald Trump is putting our national security at risk, praising Putin and ignoring Russia’s aggressions. We deserve to know why. But Senator Dean Heller is turning a blind eye,” the narrator says in the 15-second ad. “Tell him to put country ahead of politics and support an independent investigation into Trump and Russia.”
Heller and Flake are two of the Democratic targets in 2018. Democrats are defending 25 seats compared to Republicans’ eight. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Heller’s re-election in Nevada as Leans Republican. Flake’s re-election is rated Likely Republican.
Both Heller and Flake weighed in on Comey’s firing Monday night. Heller, who state supported Clinton, said the dismissal “comes as a surprise” and “there is nothing more important than getting to the bottom of Russia’s attempt to interfere with our elections.”
Flake had some sharper criticism of Trump, tweeting Tuesday night, “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.”
Neither have said they would support an independent commission. Lawmakers who do not support an additional body typically argue that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are equipped to lead the investigations.