Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has come under attack from members of his own party in a new television advertisement that aired Thursday in Washington, D.C. and in his home state.
The spot, made by Republicans for the Rule of Law, calls on voters to call McConnell and demand a vote on the election security bills aimed at protecting the nation's political system from foreign attacks, bills that he blocked last week. It also features a short clip of President Donald Trump dismissing the well-documented threat of Russian interference in U.S. elections and campaigns.
The ad aired Thursday morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and during Trump's favorite morning show — Fox News Channel's "Fox & Friends." Conservative commentator Bill Kristol shared the spot on social media, calling it "strong."
McConnell, who is running for a seventh term in the upper chamber in 2020 and has closely aligned himself closely with Trump, has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks for blocking the election security bill in the upper chamber, despite stark warnings from former intelligence officials and former special counsel Robert Mueller that Russian interference in U.S. political campaigns and elections continues unabated.
The legislation, which are aimed at defending the nation's voting systems from foreign interference and cyberattacks, include a measure passed by the House of Representatives to direct $775 million in election assistance to states over the next two years to update voting equipment.
McConnell, in response, argued the bills were unnecessary and that Trump has already taken action to protect the nation's election infrastructure.
"It's just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia and who continue to ignore this administration's progress at correcting the Obama administration's failure on this subject," he said.
The ad also contains remarks by Trump made in June, in which he revealed that if a foreign government offered him information on a political opponent, "I think I'd want to hear it." The president also said that he did not feel any obligation to alert the FBI if his campaign is approached with such assistance.
"It's not an interference. They have information — I think I'd take it," Trump told ABC News in June. "If I thought there was something wrong, I'd go maybe to the FBI, if I thought there was something wrong."
Trump also said at the time that FBI Christopher Wray was "wrong" when he declared during congressional testimony that offers of assistance from foreign entities should always be reported to the bureau.
Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on whether Russia interfered in the election despite Mueller's conclusions and assessments of U.S. intelligence agencies.
In a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Trump was asked by a reporter if he would tell the Russian leader not to meddle in America's elections. Trump said, "Yes, of course, I will," before telling Putin with a smile: "Don't meddle in the election, president. Don't meddle in the election."
Though the president has suggested that he has taken the issue of election interference less than seriously, McConnell has argued that Trump has taken major steps to combat foreign interference.
Critics slammed McConnell for blocking the election security bills.
In The Washington Post, columnist Dana Milbank published an opinion piece titled "Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset." The column argued McConnell is "unpatriotic" and is "arguably, more than any other American, doing Russian Vladimir Putin's bidding."
"He is aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin's ongoing attempts to subvert American democracy, according to the Republican FBI, CIA, DNI, intel committee," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said last week. "All Republicans are all saying Russia is subverting American democracy and Moscow Mitch won't even let the Senate take a vote on it. That is un-American."
In response, #MoscowMitch began trending on Twitter, spurring a fierce response from McConnell, who in return accused critics of engaging in "modern-day McCarthyism" to damage his record.
"I was called unpatriotic, 'un-American' and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies," McConnell said late last month on the Senate floor. "I was accused of 'aiding and abetting' the very man I've singled out as our adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years: Vladimir Putin."