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.
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 candidate for president and it's only going to become more difficult for them to keep a distance," the official said, while also questioning why the RNC is "having to pay for this when you have these super PACs taking in unlimited money for Trump." A third RNC official described the relationship between Trump and the national party as "a hostage situation," claiming that Trump could devastate the GOP if he decided to leave the party or encouraged his supporters to stop contributing to it at any point, including if the RNC no longer agrees to cover portions of his legal bills.
The bylaws of the party are you have to stay neutral," McDaniel told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
One of the former RNC officials who spoke to CNN said that while they didn't think the party was flouting its neutrality rules by covering Trump's legal fees right now, it is likely to present issues for the committee later on."There are no candidacies yet, so it's not really running afoul of that, but it sends a signal that it's going to at some point," the official said.
In both instances, it remains unclear if RNC donors were made aware ahead of time that their contributions could be used to subsidize the Trump family's legal fees -- a question the Democratic National Committee seized on Tuesday.
"Ronna McDaniel and the Republican National Committee are using their donors' money to finance Trump's personal legal defense while he sits on hundreds of millions of his own money as well as campaign funds," DNC spokesperson Adonna Biel said in a statement.