Skip to content
Staff Shakeups Continue at the Republican National Committee
Go to my account

Staff Shakeups Continue at the Republican National Committee

Plus: A Maryland Democrat tries to overcome her Senate primary opponent’s big money advantage.

Happy Monday! We hope everyone had a great May the Fourth. The White House was in a festive mood, as Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, visited press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s briefing Friday to spin for President Joe Biden.

Up to Speed

  • Former President Donald Trump met with several rumored vice presidential contenders at the Republican National Committee retreat in Florida over the weekend, CNN reports. Attendees included South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. However, it is unlikely that the campaign will announce the former president’s pick any time soon, as Trump said earlier this week that he will likely make his decision closer to the July Republican National Convention.
  • Multiple attendees were coy about their prospects in the aftermath of the meeting. Scott told Kristen Welker on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday that being Trump’s running mate did not come up. “I hope that the president will choose a person who helps the country unite and heal,” Scott said. “I certainly expect to have a decision from President Trump in the next 60 days or so. But he did not bring it up. I certainly didn’t bring it up.” Stefanik did not give a direct answer to Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures when Bartiromo asked whether Trump had brought up the possibility of Stefanik being his VP pick. “There is a lot of names that are in the mix,” she said. “I’m honored to have my name as one of them in the mix right now.”
  • John Hammond III, a longtime Republican national committeeman from Indiana, will not run for another term, he wrote in a letter first reported Sunday by Howey Politics. Hammond has been critical of Trump, as well as the presumptive GOP nominee’s allies on the Republican National Committee, having previously called for assurances that he was not using RNC funds for his legal bills. “My leadership style is one of consensus building, not division. My party-building philosophy is one of addition, not subtraction,” Hammond said in an interview with journalist Brian A. Howey.
  • Republican Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama signed legislation Thursday to ensure President Joe Biden will appear on the state’s ballot. Alabama’s Republican-controlled legislature sent a bill to her desk to move back the state’s deadline for political parties to certify their nominees with the secretary of state’s office, accommodating the dates of the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled to end after the default deadline. The Alabama and Ohio secretaries of state warned the Biden campaign last month that the president could be left off the ballot because the convention concluded after their deadlines. Members of Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature are negotiating a measure to accommodate the convention before the state’s May 9 deadline to enact the legislation.
  • The Department of Justice on Friday indicted Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife on charges of bribery, money laundering, and acting as a foreign agent. Authorities alleged that the couple received $600,000 from a Mexican bank and an Azerbaijani oil and gas company between 2014 and 2021 in exchange for the congressman’s attempts to influence American policy to favor them. Cuellar in a statement insisted he was innocent and said he intended to run for reelection to his South Texas seat this fall. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates his race as likely Democratic.
  • Tiffany Smiley, the 2022 Republican nominee for Senate in Washington state, is running for a House seat in the nonpartisan blanket primary for the 4th Congressional District, a direct challenge to sitting Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse. Smiley told Audrey Fahlberg at National Review that the district needs “fresh leadership” and criticized Newhouse for voting to impeach Trump in 2021. Newhouse is one of the last “impeachment 10” House Republicans still in office, with most having retired or lost to Trump-backed primary challengers in 2022. Smiley joins a crowded field that includes Jerrod Sessler, a Republican endorsed by Trump.
  • Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will run for reelection this fall, he announced Monday. The self-identified democratic socialist, who turns 83 in September, will be nearly 90 when what would be his fourth term ends in 2031. First elected to the House in 1990 and then to the Senate in 2006, Sanders is the second-oldest member of the body, just behind Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who will turn 91 in September.

RNC Upheaval Continues With Defenestration of Top Lawyer

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the organization's spring meeting on March 8, 2024, in Houston.  (Photo by CECILE CLOCHERET/AFP via Getty Images)
Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, speaks at the organization's spring meeting on March 8, 2024, in Houston. (Photo by CECILE CLOCHERET/AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump has pushed out the chief legal counsel for the Republican National Committee, Charlie Spies, just weeks after his hiring. The move marks yet more personnel turnover at the RNC and undermines the former president’s own directive that the national party prioritize voter integrity.

The official line from Spies was that this was his decision. “Working full time at the RNC wasn’t the right fit with my law firm client commitments, but I will remain focused on getting President Trump and Republicans at all levels elected in November,” the veteran election lawyer told Dispatch Politics Sunday in a prepared statement. But few believe that, or at least, the part about Spies’ RNC duties conflicting with his other client work. 

Republican sources tell us it’s clear to them that Spies is gone because opponents of his hiring who have Trump’s ear prevailed on the former president. Trump was convinced to cashier Spies because he said emphatically (and publicly) in the past that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election, legitimately—that it was not stolen or rigged. It might not have helped that Spies previously worked for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in their respective 2016 and 2024 White House bids.

Of course, senior Trump campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles knew all of this in mid-March when they hired Spies and when the presumptive GOP nominee apparently signed off on his being hired. Spies came aboard amid a massive personnel shakeup ordered by Trump that included the ousting of then-RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and her deputies. It was part of the former president’s effort to shift the RNC’s focus from voter turnout to combating voter fraud.

“I’m sure Chris and Susie wanted him in there because they wanted someone who was rational,” a Republican operative who has advised presidential campaigns said. “This feels to me like warring factions in Trump world and blind loyalty winning out.” As a result, six months before Election Day, the RNC and the Trump campaign are still playing catch up on voter turnout and voter integrity efforts.

Spies was to lead RNC and Trump campaign efforts to monitor polling places and field scores of lawyers across key battleground states to litigate against expected Democratic legal maneuvers to make voting rules and regulations more favorable to Biden. But as of Monday, the RNC confirmed that Spies’ replacement has not been chosen, although a committee spokesman flatly denied that he had been pushed out and rejected the suggestion that his departure would hamper the party’s voter integrity program.

“Charlie approached RNC Chief of Staff, Chris LaCivita, about potential time commitment conflicts and it was agreed that, while we appreciate and value Charlie’s expertise and professionalism, he cannot do this role full time and still maintain the obligations to his law firm that he has spent years successfully building,” RNC spokeswoman Danielle Alvarez said, in a statement also shared with other media outlets.

Trump leads Biden in most national and battleground state polling. But infrastructure is one facet of the 2024 campaign where the president has his challenger beat—and the Democrat’s team is taking every opportunity to point out the seeming dysfunction of his opponent.

“Donald Trump’s MAGA takeover of the RNC has already led to mass staff firings and an election denier litmus test for new hires—and now the committee’s top lawyer is the latest GOP official purged for disagreeing with Trump’s dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election,” Alex Floyd, spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement.

Trump never conceded to Biden following the 2020 election and has continued to insist the contest was stolen, despite the lack of any evidence. In a recent interview, the former president unsurprisingly declined to commit to honoring the results this November should he once again fall short. Maintaining the twin facades—that he did not lose to Biden the first time and could not possibly lose to him again in a fairly administered election—remains singularly important to Trump.

In interviews, the Republicans vying to be selected as the former president’s 2024 running mate have responded accordingly. “At the end of the day, the 47th president will be Donald Trump,” Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Sunday to Kristen Welker, host of NBC’s Meet The Press. “Wait—yes or no, will you accept the results?” Welker asked again. “That is my statement,” he responded.

Angela Alsobrooks Piles Up Democratic Endorsements

A recent ad for Angela Alsobrooks, a Democratic candidate for Maryland’s Senate seat, features a who’s who among the state’s political elite. The sitting governor, lieutenant governor, a U.S. senator, and several Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation all gather in the ad, Avengers-style, to show their support for Alsobrooks over her primary opponent, Rep. David Trone. 

“We know Maryland,” says Gov. Wes Moore, standing alongside Alsobrooks and Sen. Chris Van Hollen as a dozen other elected Democrats fan out around them. “And we know Angela is the Democrat who will win,” says Van Hollen.

Alsobrooks is vying with Trone to take on the likely Republican nominee, former Gov. Larry Hogan, in the general election. The Prince George’s County executive is attempting to use her clout in Democratic circles in Maryland to balance out the money advantage enjoyed by Trone, a three-term congressman with plenty of personal wealth to finance his campaign. 

Of the nine Democrats in the Maryland congressional delegation, six are behind Alsobrooks, including five House members and Van Hollen in the Senate. Meanwhile, Trone has the endorsement of just one of his fellow Maryland House Democrats, the retiring Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. The primary is May 14.

So why are so many of Trone’s own colleagues in the delegation siding with Alsobrooks?

“Angela Alsobrooks is a consummate insider,” Len Foxwell, a political strategist who has worked in Maryland politics for decades, told Dispatch Politics. “She has risen up the political ranks in Prince George’s County, which is a jurisdiction with a very top-down, vertical, machine-driven power structure. And, consequently, that’s the environment in which she’s comfortable, and she has cultivated relationships with the power elite within the Democratic Party for years, and those relationships are now coming to bear.”

A former prosecutor who grew up in Prince George’s County in the Washington suburbs, Alsobrooks has long been involved in Democratic politics. She attended the 1992 Democratic National Convention and volunteered for eventual President Bill Clinton’s campaign before also working on Al Gore’s 2000 campaign and serving as voting delegate to the 2008 DNC.

“She was an intern of mine, going back to 1992,” Rep. Kweisi Mfume of Baltimore, who has endorsed Alsobrooks, told Dispatch Politics. “I’ve known her since she was a teenager, and so, my belief in her values, what she can do is real.”

Mfume said other members have different reasons for endorsing Alsobrooks and added that none of those endorsements “in any way take away from David’s attributes or his hard work.” Another Maryland Democrat supporting Alsobrooks, Rep. Jamie Raskin, compared her to retiring Sen. Ben Cardin, whose seat she is running to fill.

“I’m impressed by her record as a former prosecutor and a former county executive, and I think her career to me really resembles that of Ben Cardin, because he worked his way up through local and state politics, the same way that she’s been doing,” he said.

By contrast, Trone is what Foxwell calls a “consummate outsider.” He founded and co-owns alcohol retailer Total Wine & More, amassing a formidable fortune. After having gained a reputation as a major Democratic donor, he ran for Congress in Maryland in 2016, spending $12.4 million of his own money—more than any self-funded candidate ever. But he lost in the primary to Raskin, who had served in the state legislature since 2006. Trone later won the 2018 election in a neighboring district.

When asked why he is supporting Trone, Ruppersberger, the retiring congressman from the Baltimore suburbs, told Dispatch Politics he knew the congressman better than Alsobrooks.

“I know Trone, I respect Trone,” Ruppersberger said. “He’s a businessman, and I think we think a lot alike. I like his opponent. I think she’s done a good job. I was a former county executive. I just don’t know her like I know Trone. Trone’s a close personal friend. But he’s competent, and he’s someone I think the state of Maryland needs. He’s got experience here, and that all makes a difference when you’re running in this race.”

There are other elements at work in the race as the primary approaches later this month. As Dispatch Politics reported last week, Alsobrooks’ supporters are also making explicit appeals for her based on her identity as a black woman.

“We don’t have a woman in the delegation. I think that’s an untenable position to be in for any state to have … to have no women—any more than no males—representing in the delegation,” Rep. Steny Hoyer told Dispatch Politics, adding that she would be a stronger contrast to Hogan than Trone.

But Hoyer also touted Alsobrooks’ large collection of endorsements from prominent Maryland Democrats as predictor of her success against Hogan, listing many of them off one-by-one.

“The overwhelming pool of the state has endorsed her, and I think that makes her a very, very strong candidate in the general.”

The Trone campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“Leaders like Gov. Moore, Sen. Van Hollen, Congressman Raskin, Congressman Hoyer and many more Maryland leaders know that Angela is the strongest candidate to both represent Maryland and to defeat Larry Hogan in November,” Alsobrooks campaign communications director Gina Ford told Dispatch Politics. “They know both candidates, and they’ve decided that Angela is the strongest Democrat.”

Notable and Quotable

“Commander, say hello to Cricket for me.”

—South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in her upcoming book, apparently suggesting that President Joe Biden’s dog, Commander, who has bitten several people, should suffer the same fate as Cricket, a dog Noem shot on her family’s farm.

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.

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.