CONCORD, N.H. ― A Justice Department letter stating that the president’s campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia may be discouraging to some Democrats, but it has not dissuaded the one Republican already seeking to unseat Donald Trump.
“It’s neutral to my campaign,” said Bill Weld, a former two-term governor of Massachusetts and, prior to that, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division under President Ronald Reagan. “The question was: Did the sitting president of the United States conspire with a foreign power to procure his own election? You wouldn’t want a ‘yes’ answer to that question.”
Weld pointed out that Trump continues to face a number of other active state and federal investigations, including one by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York over an illegal hush money scheme that his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, will be going to prison for.
A letter released Sunday by U.S. Attorney General William Barr summarizing a report by special counsel Robert Mueller said that Trump and his campaign had not conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to win the 2016 election.
Notwithstanding the letter, though, Weld said Trump inappropriately used Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton campaign emails in the final month of his campaign ― despite knowing that they had been stolen by Russian spy agencies. “I would like to think that if a presidential campaign received an advance from a foreign power that was somewhat hostile, they would tell the FBI as their first order of business,” Weld said.
Though Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich have both expressed interest in challenging Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primaries, only Weld has taken concrete steps toward doing so. He opened an exploratory committee last month and said Monday that he anticipates formally announcing his candidacy in April.
He said he plans to run a national campaign with a focus on New Hampshire but also looking to the Western states as regions that would be receptive to his economically conservative, pro-immigration message.
He added that like-minded Republicans tired of Trump are already eager to help. “They say, ‘Where do I sign? And what’s the max?’” he said.
Weld is back in New Hampshire this week, as he has been every week since he announced his exploratory committee on Feb. 15. On Monday he conducted a number of radio and television interviews and then visited shops on the capital city’s Main Street accompanied by New Hampshire Republican National Committee member Steve Duprey.
“I think there are a fair number of Republicans who don’t care for the way the president tweets and comports himself,” Duprey said. “And those are the Republicans who, notwithstanding whether they like the tax cut or his efforts to get a fair deal with China, are willing to at least listen to other candidates.”
The Trump re-election campaign referred a HuffPost query about Weld’s challenge to the Republican National Committee, which answered through a spokeswoman who would not allow her name to be used: “The RNC and the Republican Party are firmly behind the president. Any effort to challenge the president’s nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere.”