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Trump Retakes Control Of RNC, Potentially Opening Up Cash Streams To Pay Legal Bills

Donald Trump, an adjudicated rapist who attempted a coup to remain in power after losing reelection, on Friday retook control of the Republican National Committee, potentially opening up vast new streams of money he can use to pay his mounting legal bills.

At a meeting in Houston, the 168-member group voted to install the former president’s handpicked choice, Michael Whatley, as chair, and his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as vice chair.

Trump forced out Ronna McDaniel from the top job after she refused to cancel debates for the 2024 presidential primaries and otherwise did not accede to his demands. McDaniel, who Trump chose for the position after his surprise election win in 2016, has been blamed by Trump and many of his followers for poor election results ― even though polls show that it has been Trump’s leadership of the party that led to Democratic wins in 2018, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

“President Trump deserves to have the team he wants in place at the RNC,” McDaniel said in a 25-minute farewell speech.

Whatley, who had been the North Carolina state chair, repeated Trump’s lies after the 2020 election, claiming that Joe Biden won because of “massive fraud.” At some point after Jan. 6, 2021, when a Trump-incited mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to install Trump for a second term, Whatley apparently deleted a social media post he wrote that day calling the violence “unjustified and unacceptable.”

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, waves to the crowd before speaking at the North Carolina Republican Convention, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, North Carolina.
Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, waves to the crowd before speaking at the North Carolina Republican Convention, June 5, 2021, in Greenville, North Carolina. Chris Seward via Associated Press

In his acceptance speech Friday, Whatley said that “protecting the vote” ― that is, guarding against fraud ― would be just as important to the RNC’s mission in 2024 as turning out the vote. “If our voters don’t have confidence that our elections are safe and secure, nothing else matters,” he said.

Trump’s campaign and the party can now start raising money jointly, allowing a single donor to contribute upward of $1 million, with the overwhelming majority ― all but $6,600 ― going to the party. That capability has led to some Republicans, most notably Trump’s last rival to drop out of the race, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, to warn that party money would go to pay the various lawyers defending Trump in his civil lawsuits and four criminal indictments.

Top Trump campaign aide Chris LaCivita, who is now taking day-to-day control of the RNC’s operations, did not respond to HuffPost’s queries on the matter. He has said in media interviews, including most recently with The Associated Press, that the RNC would not pay for Trump’s legal problems.

“The fact of the matter is not a penny of the RNC’s money or, for that matter, the campaign’s money has gone or will go to pay legal fees,” LaCivita said.

That assertion, though, is false. In fact, in 2023 alone, Trump spent $54.2 million on legal fees through his various political committees ― all of it raised with the stated purpose of helping Trump and other Republicans win elections, with zero disclaimer that some of the money could be used for his legal fees. And between summer 2021 and autumn 2022, the RNC in fact did spend $1.6 million to pay some of Trump’s legal bills, and only stopped when he officially announced his candidacy for the 2024 nomination.

Lara Trump herself has said that Republican voters would approve of the party paying for Trump’s legal woes, as did GOP senators who claim that all of his problems ― including the criminal prosecutions based on his 2021 coup attempt ― are “politically motivated.”

A resolution floated by Henry Barbour, an RNC member from Mississippi, to disapprove of paying for legal bills failed to win enough sponsors to get a floor vote.

Oscar Brock, who like Barbour is one of the few RNC members openly critical of Trump, said that even if the RNC does not pay legal bills by itself, it could take over many or most of the Trump campaign’s expenses. “More colloquially, use the RNC as a piggy bank,” Brock said.

That, in turn, would let Trump’s Save America Joint Fundraising Committee alter its allocation formula so that a larger percentage goes to his “leadership PAC” and less to his campaign.

A leadership PAC is allowed to spend money on non-campaign expenses, while a campaign committee cannot. In 2022, Trump without public fanfare increased the share going to Save America tenfold as legal bills piled up, from 1% to 10%.

Trump campaign aides did not respond to HuffPost’s queries about whether the formula was going to be changed again to increase the share going to Save America.

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