Republican officials and top party donors are enraged after learning the Republican National Committee is using campaign funds to make payments to lawyers hired by the Trump Organization amid ongoing investigations into the real estate company’s financial practices by Manhattan District Attorney.
The payments to Fischetti and Malgieri LLP —totaling $121,670 according to FEC filings— are “raising questions among GOP officials about the party’s priorities in a critical election year and its ability to remain neutral —as long-standing RNC rules require— in the 2024 presidential primary,” CNN reported.
“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,” CNN’s Gabby Orr wrote.
“This is not normal. Nothing about this is normal, especially since he’s not only a former President but a billionaire,” a former top RNC official told CNN. “What does any of this have to do with assisting Republicans in 2022 or preparing for the 2024 primary?” the official added.
Another 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 his legal bills.
“They can’t disentangle themselves from him because they need him,” the official said, according to CNN.
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.
A third 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.”
“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.”
The RNC did not respond to a request comment.