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SCOOP: Some RNC Members Pushing Resolutions to Constrain Trump
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SCOOP: Some RNC Members Pushing Resolutions to Constrain Trump

As Trump inches closer to securing the Republican presidential nomination, an effort to prevent him from short-circuiting the process emerges.

Former President Donald Trump takes the stage with North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley at the North Carolina state convention on June 5, 2021, in Greenville, North Carolina. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee could vote on resolutions at an upcoming spring meeting that, if approved, would prohibit the RNC from covering millions of dollars in legal bills being racked up by Donald Trump, and would bar the party from treating the former president as its presumptive presidential nominee before he secures the requisite convention delegates. How much total support the resolutions have is unclear, as is whether or not they’ll secure enough backing to be granted formal consideration under RNC rules.

The draft resolutions, sponsored by Henry Barbour, a veteran RNC committeeman from Mississippi, were obtained by The Dispatch Saturday morning and are currently being circulated among committee members in advance of the party’s scheduled March 7-9 meeting in Houston. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has signaled she will step down at that time to make way for the committee to elect a replacement, almost assuredly current RNC counsel and North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley, who is being backed by Trump. Members are also expected to install the former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as vice chair.

An earlier RNC resolution proposed by RNC committeeman David Bossie, first reported by The Dispatch, would have declared Trump the presumptive nominee before he earned the necessary 1,215 nominating delegates to July’s Milwaukee convention, although the former president came out against it after it went public. And on Friday, Trump’s top campaign adviser, Chris LaCivita, told NBC News he would not allow RNC funds to be used to cover Trump’s legal expenses after he takes over as chief operating officer of the committee (a role created for him by Trump). 

But with the 45th president essentially set to assume control of the RNC before becoming the official presumptive nominee through the ascension of Whatley, Lara Trump, and LaCivita, some committee members want insurance that would preserve the committee’s neutrality in a Republican primary in which Nikki Haley continues to compete—and protect its coffers from being used to pay for the tens of millions of dollars Trump is spending to defend himself against indictments in four different criminal cases.

The draft resolution regarding the RNC remaining neutral in the primary reads:

WHEREAS, The Republican National Committee must serve as a neutral player in primaries; in fact, RNC Rule 11 states the RNC 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. WHEREAS, the Republican Presidential Primary is not over; it is contested with two current qualified candidates, who have each won delegates. … RESOLVED, That the Republican National Committee and its leadership will stay neutral throughout the Presidential primary and not take on additional staff from any of the active Presidential campaigns until a nominee is clearly determined by reaching 1,215 delegates.

The draft resolution related to Trump’s legal expenditures is worded in such a way that it does not single out Trump and codifies that the RNC should only spend money on political activity to elect Republicans up and down the ticket, and not the personal dealings of any candidate. It reads:

WHEREAS, the Republican National Committee should focus its spending on political efforts associated with winning elections and make clear from this point forward that the RNC’s financial resources are to be used to assist candidates across the country winning elections in 2024. WHEREAS, 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; therefore, be it RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee will not pay the legal bills of any of our candidates for any federal or state office, but will focus our spending on efforts directly related to the 2024 election cycle.

The full text of both resolutions can be found here. A source familiar with RNC officials’ thought process said it’s not unheard of for the RNC to coordinate with a frontrunner before the official delegate threshold is reached—pointing to the organization’s embrace of Mitt Romney in 2012 as an example. The RNC, however, declined to comment for this story. 

Trump is on pace to defeat Haley and capture the Republican nomination, possibly as soon as late March. Super Tuesday, March 5, will see 16 states hold primaries. The former president is expected to defeat the former South Carolina governor Saturday in the Palmetto State’s GOP primary, which would net him all 50 delegates up for grabs in the contest.

Editor’s Note, February 24, 2024: This story has been updated with additional details and context regarding the RNC’s thought process and the likelihood of the resolutions passing.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.