A spokesperson for the RNC said the party’s executive committee recently “approved paying for certain legal expenses that relate to politically motivated legal proceedings waged against President Trump,” and defended the payments as “entirely appropriate” as the party “continue[s] assisting in fighting back against the Democrats’ never ending witch hunt and attacks on [Trump].”
However, some RNC members and donors accused the party of running afoul of its own neutrality rules and misplacing its priorities. Some of these same officials who spoke to CNN also questioned why the party would foot the legal bills of a self-professed billionaire who was sitting on a $102 million war chest as recently as July and has previously used his various political committees to cover legal costs. According to FEC filings from August, the former President’s Make America Great Again committee has paid Jones Day more than $37,000 since the beginning of the year, while his Make America Great Again super PAC has paid a combined $7.8 million to attorneys handling his lawsuits related to the 2020 election.
“This is not normal. Nothing about this is normal, especially since he’s not only a former President but a billionaire,” said a former top RNC official.
“What does any of this have to do with assisting Republicans in 2022 or preparing for the 2024 primary?” the official added.
Bill Palatucci, a national committeeman from New Jersey, said the fact that the RNC made the payments to Trump’s attorneys in October was particularly frustrating given his own plea to party officials that same month for additional resources as the New Jersey GOP sought to push Republican Jack Ciattarelli over the finish line in his challenge to incumbent Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
“We sure as heck could have used $121,000,” Palatucci told CNN.
Though Murphy narrowly defeated Ciattarelli to win reelection, the unexpectedly tight race in a state that President Joe Biden carried by 15 percentage points in 2020 left Democrats reeling over what it could mean for their party next fall.
“We were in the middle of hand-to-hand combat trying to win and those resources could have helped here. It just speaks for itself of what the priorities were,” Palatucci added.
Another former RNC official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, said the RNC’s decision to foot Trump’s legal bills represents “the big conundrum” top party officials face as they try to avoid putting their thumbs on the scale ahead of the 2024 GOP presidential primary, in which Trump continues to tease his potential candidacy, while maintaining a record-breaking fundraising pace with the former President’s assistance.
“Trump helps them raise boatloads of money but he’s also likely to be a…