Opinion writer

The conservative group Republicans for the Rule of Law is out with a new ad:

Sarah Longwell, one of the group’s co-founders, says via email, “Despite the President’s attacks on the Department of Justice and the investigation, a majority of Republicans (59%) still agree Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be allowed to finishing the job,” citing the Quinnipiac University poll released in late April. “The ad will air tomorrow on Fox and Friends and MSNBC’s Morning Joe in Washington, D.C. and will be promoted to Republican audiences online.” The ad features voices of conservative Republicans such as Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), admonishing President Trump to allow Mueller to complete his work.

The ad does not directly touch on Trump’s willingness to testify, but Gowdy and others have made soundbite-ready statements urging Trump — because he claims innocence — to sit down with Mueller. Yet Trump’s TV lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani continues to make pronouncements in public to the effect that Trump won’t testify unless his conditions are met. The Post reports:

President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said Tuesday that Trump will not agree to an interview with the special counsel until prosecutors allow the president’s legal team to review documents related to the FBI’s use of a source to interact with members of Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“We need all the documents before we can decide whether we are going to do an interview,” Giuliani said in an interview with The Washington Post, using Trump’s term “spygate” to refer to the FBI actions, which former officials have said were well within bounds.

There is no indication that Giuliani is actually talking to Mueller or that Mueller will agree to any such conditions. In all likelihood, Mueller will issue a subpoena if and when he wants Trump’s testimony.

In light of the cracks in the GOP wall of support surrounding Trump, his bogus spygate story and Mueller’s quiet professionalism, Trump may not have the public support he expects if he is going to refuse to sit with Mueller and challenge a subpoena. As Trump suffers one horrendous news cycle after another for unpopular moves such as bailing out a Chinese telecom giant and trying to escape responsibility for his child separation policy, he risks losing even traditional Republicans who abhor his latest moves.

Moreover, Mueller gains credibility with each indictment and guilty plea. Rational people will not consider an investigation that turns up five guilty pleas and 19 indictments a “witch hunt.” With Paul Manafort due to go on trial, Mueller’s accomplishments may increase. Longwell tells me, “Republicans in Congress should actively push back on the narrative that this is a fruitless witch hunt and remind voters that the investigation has already yielded 19 indictments, including 13 Russian nationals and four former Trump campaign associates.”

Republicans for the Rule of Law has faith that when pushed to confront Trump’s attacks on the rule of law, at least some incumbents and candidates will separate themselves from the president. We surely hope the group is right. However, Democratic candidates on the ballot in November would be wise to flip the script and make Republican opponents defend Trump’s actions. That may make for some uncomfortable campaign encounters and debates.