A Republican National Committee (RNC) official has told ABC News that they’re hoping to stop him from announcing his candidacy too early by saying that RNC payments for Mr Trump’s legal bills would cease as soon as the declaration is made.
The RNC has shelled out almost $2m in legal costs for Mr Trump, as he defends himself in both personal litigations as well as government investigations.
The RNC official told ABC that the payments would end as soon as he reveals a run for president because of the GOP’s neutrality policy stopping the party from being partisan in a presidential primary.
“The party has to stay neutral,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in January. “I’m not telling anybody to run or not to run in 2024.”
But she also said Mr Trump was the leader of the party.
Shortly before the end of his White House term, Mr Trump told Ms McDaniel that he was leaving the GOP to set up his own party, but backtracked after she told him that the legal payments would end, according to the book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show by Jonathan Karl of ABC News.
Both Mr Trump and Ms McDaniel have said that the story isn’t true.
Canary LLC CEO and GOP donor Dan Eberhart told ABC News that he doesn’t “think there’s been any effort” by the RNC to stay neutral, adding that it’s a “symbiotic relationship”.
“The RNC needs Trump or Trump surrogates or Trump’s likeness to raise money, and Trump wants them to continue paying his bills and be as pro-Trump as possible,” Mr Eberhart said. “So neither is in a hurry to cut the umbilical cord.”
Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, a progressive watchdog, told the outlet that “other Republican candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president have good reason to worry that the party apparatus is rigged against them in its unwavering support for Trump”.
“By paying Trump’s extensive legal bills, the RNC is indirectly helping finance the Trump campaign,” he told ABC. “And given the history of the RNC zealously defending Trump, other Republican candidates should expect that they are not just running against Trump, they are also running against the Republican Party.”
Mr Eberhart called it an “open secret” in the GOP that “nobody wants Trump to announce his candidacy until after the midterms”.
“Everyone thinks it’ll scramble the midterms and we could potentially destroy the advantage we have”, he added. “It makes Trump more relevant and gives the Dems potentially a way to reset the race.”
At least two out of the three legal firms that the RNC has paid for Mr Trump are representing him in cases related to his personal business dealings and not his political work.
Mr Trump is being investigated by both the New York state Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney – both Democrats who have said that their investigations are not motivated by politics.
Mr Trump’s political action committee Save America has been paying legal costs for witnesses embroiled in the January 6 investigation, prompting concerns about witness coercion.
The Independent has reached out to the RNC for comment.