GOP Groups Take Out Ads to Stoke Trump-Tester Feud

President says U.S. senator will pay for scuttling Veterans Affairs pick

By Molly Priddy

Republican groups are taking out attack ads against Sen. Jon Tester in an attempt to make good on President Donald Trump’s pledge that the Montana Democrat will pay for scuttling his Department of Veterans Affairs nominee.

One online ad by the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched Wednesday, says Tester spread reckless allegations and lies about White House physician Ronny Jackson.

The ad shows a clip of Trump saying that what Tester did to Jackson “is a disgrace” and a Trump tweet that said Tester should resign. “Trump is right. It’s time for Jon Tester to go,” the ad says.

“Sen. Tester didn’t even think twice before spreading unsubstantiated claims about a decorated veteran, just to please Chuck Schumer and his liberal party bosses in Washington,” NRSC spokesman Calvin Moore said Tuesday.

Moore declined to say how much the NRSC spent on the ad.

Another new ad by the pro-Trump America First Action Super PAC also calls Tester disgraceful and says it’s time for him to go. The super PAC spent about $344,000 to air the ad on broadcast stations and cable television across Montana for a week starting Thursday, spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said Wednesday.

Tester campaign manager Christie Roberts dismissed the attacks.

“This is just politics,” she said. “Jon is relentless in holding government accountable and he will continue to fight for veterans to make sure they have the services they need and have earned.”

Trump said last week that Tester “will have a big price to pay” politically after Tester’s office released allegations against the White House physician that included drunkenness, overprescribing medication and fostering a hostile work environment. Jackson withdrew his nomination and denies the claims.

Since then, the president has criticized Tester in tweets and public appearances. On Tuesday, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short phoned in to a Montana radio program and said the president was considering traveling to Montana to campaign against Tester.

Tester is running for a third term in November’s elections, one of 10 Democrats seeking re-election in states that Trump won in 2016. Four Republicans are competing in the June 5 primary for the chance to take on Tester.

Tester, who is the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and Republican committee chairman Johnny Isakson of Georgia released a joint statement last week that Jackson’s hearing would be indefinitely postponed. Tester’s office then released a list of allegations against Jackson that included drunkenness, overprescribing medication and creating a hostile work environment.

Tester has said the allegations were made by more than two dozen people who’ve worked with Jackson. Tester said not investigating Jackson would have been a dereliction of duty and that he released the allegations for transparency.

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