Republican Group Posts Billboards In GOP Districts Slamming President: 'What Is Trump Hiding?'

A Republican group has launched a digital billboard campaign targeting the districts of 12 GOP members of the House of Representatives, asking: "What is Trump hiding?"

The billboards, which went up Wednesday and were sponsored by Republicans for the Rule of Law, aim to raise awareness about the president's refusal to comply or cooperate with the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. Photos of several high-level current and former Trump administration officials, who were blocked from testifying by the White House, are included on the billboards with duct tape over their mouths.

A representative for Republicans for the Rule of Law told Newsweek that the group had specifically targeted the districts of the GOP members of Congress – including Representatives Fred Upton of Michigan, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Francis Rooney of Florida, John Katko of New York and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania – because they had shown a willingness to "assert their independence" of the president in the past.

Trump billboard
A mock-up of a digital billboard asking "What is Trump hiding?" paid for by the conservative group Republicans for the Rule of Law. The billboards were launched in 12 GOP-held congressional districts on December 11 Republicans for the Rule of Law

Newsweek has reached out for comment from several of the representatives whose districts were targeted with the campaign.

Kinzinger's office replied with an emailed statement. "Since President Trump was elected, the Democrats have wanted to overturn the election. The articles of impeachment drafted today are the culmination of that anti-Trump fever, leaving us even more divided than before," the representative said. "There will be another presidential election in 11 months and the voters will have the final say, as was designed by our Founders."

"The House of Representatives is the people's house, and the Constitution gives it full responsibility for impeachment. When President Trump completely obstructed an impeachment inquiry, he made it clear that he doesn't think the American people deserve to know what's going on in the administration," Republicans for the Rule of Law's spokesperson Chris Truax said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

Truax asserted that Trump should "have made some effort" to prove his case against impeachment if he was innocent. "If the President really does think the facts will exonerate him, why won't he let those facts come out?" he asked.

The new billboards are part of a much broader campaign by the Republican group to raise concerns about Trump's actions and call for greater transparency. Currently, the organization is running a television ad pointing out that Trump has blocked numerous key witnesses from testifying before Congress in relation to the impeachment inquiry.

"These witnesses must testify," the voice-over at the end of the ad, which is running on Fox News in key congressional districts, says in the clip. "What is Trump afraid of?" Both the television ad and the billboards specifically call for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to go before House investigators.

Republicans for the Rule of Law is a project launched by the conservative advocacy organization Defending Democracy Together. Although it was founded by lifelong conservative Republicans, the group's views are notably at odds with current mainstream Republicans and the president.

"The Republican Party finds itself entertaining some of the same unsettling nativist and authoritarian impulses that characterized Europe throughout the 20th century. These ideals are antithetical to what it means to be a Republican, and what it means to be American," the website of the group says.

Trump doesn't want the people who know the most to testify. Why not? What's he afraid of?
This new ad from Republicans for the Rule of Law will air in key states and districts on TV and will be promoted digitally.

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) November 27, 2019

Rooney, one of the lawmakers whose district has been targeted by the new campaign, suggested on Monday that he agrees with the group's sentiments regarding the impeachment inquiry. "There are several important sources of first-hand testimony about what was or was not said by the president that should be heard under oath," the congressman said, Florida Politics reported.

Upton has also shown a willingness to voice his disagreement with Trump in the past. Back in July, when the House voted to condemn racist statements made by the president, which specifically targeted four female members of Congress, the Michigan Representative broke ranks with his GOP colleagues and voted in favor of the measure. Only three other Republicans did the same.

Trump is facing two articles of impeachment unveiled by the House Judiciary Committee this week. The first is for "Abuse of Power," relating to his efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into discredited claims against his political rivals, while the second is for "Obstruction of Congress." Trump has refused to comply with legal congressional subpoenas related to the inquiry, while also blocking witnesses from testifying.

Although the articles of impeachment are expected to pass in the Democrat-controlled House, the vote is expected to be highly partisan. Republicans have largely continued to defend Trump, despite the evidence brought to light by the inquiry, with GOP leaders often using the same talking points as the president.

This article has been updated with a comment from Representative Kinzinger.

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