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U.S. Rep. John Katko

Katko

Republicans for the Rule of Law launched a $1 million ad campaign targeting GOP members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. John Katko, urging them to speak out against President Donald Trump for seeking foreign assistance in the 2020 election. 

The group released a new video targeting Katko, R-Camillus, that will air on Fox News this week. The ad will appear during "Fox & Friends" and "Special Report with Bret Baier." 

The seven-figure ad campaign is in response to Trump's contacts with Ukraine. During a phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine's president, he pressured the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden, a former vice president and leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender. 

The exchange was summarized in a memo released by the White House. The call is also mentioned in a whistle-blower's complaint about the president's conduct. 

Ukraine isn't the only country Trump has sought help from in his attempts to have Biden and his son, Hunter, investigated. While taking questions from the press at the White House, Trump urged China to launch an inquiry. 

Chris Truax, a Republican and San Diego-based attorney who is a spokesman for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said GOP congress members "should be horrified" at Trump's invitations to interfere in the 2020 elections. 

"The president's actions aren't just irresponsible, dangerous and illegal. They are fundamentally un-American," Truax said. "Until President Trump came along, American politics stopped at the water's edge." 

According to its website, Republicans for the Rule of Law is "a group of lifelong Republicans dedicated to defending the institutions of our republic and upholding the rule of law. We are fighting to make sure that the laws apply equally to everyone, from the average citizen to the president of the United States. We believe in fidelity to the Constitution, transparency and the independence of prosecutors from politics." 

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The group's legal advisory board consists of nine members. The board members include Charles Fried, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, and former Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton. 

After House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry of Trump, Katko called it a "dramatic overstep." He believes Democrats are jumping to conclusions and lack key facts to make a case against the president. 

While Katko said he wouldn't engage in a conversation like the one Trump had with the Ukrainian president — Trump "has a very different style than I do," he said — he doesn't think it warrants impeachment.

"There's no indication of a clear cut crime here," Katko told The Citizen in September. 

Republicans for the Rule of Law hasn't called for impeachment. In a call for action posted on its website, the group says a final determination on impeachment "should wait until all the facts are in."

However, they note that the president "has already admitted pressuring a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political opponent." They also urge Republicans in Congress to condemn the president's actions "without reservation." 

So far, few Republicans have been willing to publicly criticize Trump's conduct. U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney slammed Trump for seeking help from China and Ukraine to investigate Biden. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Ben Sasse have also been critical of the president's actions. 

"Honest Republicans will say publicly what they believe privately," Truax said. "Some, like Senator Mitt Romney, already have. They must tell their constituents — as well as the Ukrainian, Chinese and other governments — that foreign interference in American elections is unconditionally forbidden. And they must tell President Trump. They need to do it publicly. They need to do it clearly. And they need to do it now." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.