President Donald Trump is using his powerful social media presence to push back against the impeachment inquiry, tweeting and retweeting more than 100 times over the weekend and his reelection campaign has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads on the topic over the past week.
More than 1,800 ads on Trump's Facebook page mentioning "impeachment" have run in the past seven days. The ads have been viewed between 16 and 18 million times on Facebook and the campaign has spent between $600,000 and $2,000,000 on the effort, according to data analyzed by Laura Edelson, a researcher at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering.
The President is using ads to enlist people in what his campaign is calling the "Official Impeachment Defense Task Force."
"I want to know who stood with me when it mattered most, which is why my team is making me a list of EVERY AMERICAN PATRIOT who adds their name and joins the Official Impeachment Defense Taskforce," one Trump ad reads.
Edelson, who has been tracking political ads on Facebook for more than a year, said many of the ads are being used to harvest contact information. She said data about ad engagement can also be a useful way for the Trump campaign to take the temperature of current supporters on specific issues.
Vice President Mike Pence's Facebook page has also been enlisted in the effort spending more than $700,000 on Facebook ads between September 22 and 28. The amount is the biggest ad spend through Pence's Facebook page since the social media network began releasing ad spend data in May 2018. The Pence ads are primarily about upcoming Trump rallies and impeachment.
"There are now over 150 House Democrats who back Impeachment," one ad on Pence page reads, "These Impeachment claims have nothing to do with me, President Trump - the Democrats thrive on silencing and intimidating my supporters, like YOU. They want to take YOUR VOTE away."
The Trump campaign has spent almost $20 million on Facebook ads since Facebook began publicly disclosing political ad spend in May 2018. The ad-buys eclipse that of all Democratic presidential primary candidates.
Nick Clegg, former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom and now Facebook's vice-president of global affairs and communications, confirmed in a speech last week in Washington that Facebook would not fact-check ads run by political campaigns.
The company has partnered with third party fact-checking groups to downrank content they deem to be false but politicians will largely be exempt from this.