California billionaire doubles spending on anti-Trump ads

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California billionaire Tom Steyer said Thursday he'll double his spending on ads calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment to $20 million, even as some prominent national Democrats question whether such calls are a smart move.

In announcing the new spending, Steyer argued that Tuesday's big election wins in Virginia and New Jersey show Democrats are energized and ready to fight back against Trump.

"The American people have responded beyond our expectation to this message," Steyer said. "The Democratic establishment is out of touch with the voters they need to turn out in the upcoming election."

Steyer's "Need to Impeach" campaign will air two new ads in the coming weeks.

The first ad launched in October features Steyer speaking directly to the camera, calling Trump dangerous and mentally unstable. He urged viewers to ask their representatives in Congress to attempt impeachment - an unlikely scenario given Republicans control Congress.

Trump responded to the ads by calling Steyer "wacky and totally unhinged." Fox decided to stop running the first ad "due to strong negative reaction" by its viewers, co-president Jack Abernethy said.

Steyer says about 1.9 million people have signed the petition calling for Trump's impeachment.

The effort highlights divisions within the Democratic party over how best to deal with Trump.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California has called impeachment efforts a distraction and warned they could backfire against Democrats.

The effort is boosting Steyer's profile nationwide as he weighs a possible run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

The ads are airing nationally on CNN and MSNBC and on local stations. The "Need to Impeach" campaign has also conducted polling in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to vote in presidential primaries.

Steyer's other political organization, NextGen America, spent $3.3 million in Virginia's gubernatorial race.