Should the Republican Party Pay Donald Trump’s Legal Bills?

News & Politics

A longtime Republican National Committee member, Henry Barbour, has introduced two resolutions for consideration by the RNC board that the Trump campaign opposes as “absurd.”

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The first proposal would enforce the RNC by-laws that forbid the national committee from taking sides in a primary. The proposed resolution would explicitly prevent the RNC from coordinating with a campaign until one candidate has won 1215 delegates, which is the number needed for the nomination.

“The Republican National Committee must serve as a neutral player in primaries,” the proposal reads, pointing to RNC Rule 11. That rule states the national party shall not “contribute money or in-kind aid to any candidate for any public or party office of that state, except the nominee of the Republican Party or a candidate who is unopposed in the Republican Primary after the filing deadline for that office.” 

The Trump campaign sent out a letter stating that they hoped to wrap up the 1215 delegates necessary for the nomination by March 19, after the Supre Tuesday primaries. Trump is expected to win all of them and gain the lion’s share of the delegates.

“The primary is over and it is the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House,” said campaign advisor Chris LaCivita. It’s Trump’s announced plan to install LaCivita as chief operating officer of the RNC.

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“Efforts to delay that assist Joe Biden in the destruction of our nation. Republicans cannot stand on the sidelines and allow this to happen,” LaCivita said.

Trump has publicly endorsed North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley for RNC chairman. He would serve alongside Lara Trump, who the candidate wants as co-chair. It seems that, at this point, the issue is moot given the speed with which Trump is wrapping up the nomination.

The second resolution is more problematic.  

The second proposal asks the RNC to block the party from paying the legal bills of “either former president Donald Trump or former Ambassador Nikki Haley unrelated to this 2024 Presidential election.” 

This comes as hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and fines related to Trump’s various legal battles are piling up. Two political action committees associated with Trump have already spent over $50 million in legal fees last year, according to Federal Election Commission reports. 

“Spending any RNC financial resources for any candidate’s personal, business, or political legal expenses, not related to the 2024 election cycle, does not serve the RNC’s primary mission of helping to elect our candidates in 2024,” the proposal reads.

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If you accept Trump’s reasoning that the legal bills are the result of a political prosecution designed to hobble the former president in seeking to be elected again, the RNC should pay all legal bills whether they’re directly related to the 2024 campaign or not.

Otherwise, you accept the Democrats’ argument that the prosecutions have nothing to do with 2024.

There’s nothing unusual in a presidential candidate from either party taking control of the party apparatus for the campaign. I don’t see this as a big deal. But if Trump doesn’t win, you can expect a near-immediate house cleaning.

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