‘Nothing about this is normal’: RNC payments to Trump attorneys irk GOP officials

Separate payments to Fischetti and Malgieri LLP totaling $121,670, included in the commission’s latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, were first reported on Monday. Ronald Fichte, a partner in the New York-based firm, was appointed by the Trump Organization in April amid ongoing investigations into the real estate company’s financial practices by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and state Attorney General Letitia James.

An RNC spokesperson said the party’s executive committee “recently agreed to pay certain legal expenses related to politically motivated legal action against President Trump,” and defended the payments as “perfectly appropriate” as the party continues.[s] Help fight against the Democrats’ never ending witch hunt and attacks [Trump]. “

However, some RNC members and donors accused the party of violating its rules of neutrality and misplacing its priorities. Some of those same officials who spoke to CNN also questioned why the party had been paying the legal bills to a self-proclaimed billionaire who had been sitting on a $102 million war fund as recently as July and had previously used its various political committees to cover legal costs. According to FEC filings from August, former president’s Make America Great Again Committee has paid Jones Day more than $37,000 since the start of the year, while his Make America Great Again Super PAC team has paid $7.8 million to attorneys handling his lawsuits related to the 2020 election.

“It’s not normal,” said a former senior RNC official. “Nothing about this is normal, especially since he’s not just a former president, but a billionaire.”

“What does any of this have to do with helping Republicans in 2022 or preparing for the 2024 primaries?” The official added.

The fact that the Federal National Council made payments to Trump’s lawyers in October was particularly frustrating given his own call to party officials in the same month for additional resources as the New Jersey Republican Party sought to push Republican Jack, Bill Palatucci, a National Committee member from New Jersey, said. Ciattarelli on the finish line in his challenge to incumbent Democratic Governor Phil Murphy.

“We’re sure we could have used $121,000,” Palatucci told CNN.

Although Murphy narrowly defeated Ciattarelli to win reelection, an unexpectedly narrow race in a state that President Joe Biden won by 15 percentage points in 2020 has Democrats reeling over what that could mean for their party next fall.

“We were in the midst of a hand-to-hand fight trying to win and these resources could have helped here. They only speak for themselves about the priorities,” Balatucci added.

Another former FNC official, who asked not to be named to speak frankly, said the FNC’s decision to submit legal bills to Trump represented the “big puzzle” that top party officials face as they try to avoid putting their thumbs on the scale ahead of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. 2024, as Trump continues to provoke his potential candidacy, while maintaining a record fundraising pace with the help of the former president.

“Trump helps them raise a lot of money, but he’s also likely to be a presidential candidate, and it’s going to get difficult for them to stay away,” the official said, while also questioning why the RNC would have to “pay for” this when you have these super PACs taking Unlimited money for Trump.”

A third RNC official described the relationship between Trump and the National Party as a “hostage situation,” claiming that Trump could destroy the Republican Party if he decides to leave the party or encourage his supporters to stop contributing to it at any time, including if the RNC no longer agrees to cover Portions of his legal bills.

This person said, “They can’t separate themselves from him because they need him.”

The Republican National Assembly did not respond to a request for further comment.

Most recently, last week, RNC President Rona McDaniel cited party bylaws regarding impartiality while dodging questions about Trump’s ambitions for 2024.

“I know you guys like to jump into 2024,” McDaniel told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “I’m not going there. Party bylaws have to remain neutral.”

One former RNC official who spoke to CNN said that while they did not believe the party was violating neutrality rules by covering Trump’s legal fees at this time, it would likely bring issues to the committee at a later time.

“There are no nominations yet, so it doesn’t go against that, but it does send a signal that it’s at some point,” the official said.

Questions about whether the party organization could be considered truly neutral toward Trump if he runs again in 2024 — which his advisers say is increasingly likely — have been around since he left office. Three months after the former president moved to Palm Beach, Florida, in January, the RNC held part of its annual donor spring retreat in Mar-a-Lago — a move that included paying the beachfront club to use its facilities and cater to an event. At about the same time, the party rejected a cease-and-desist letter from Trump’s team calling on the Republican Party to stop using its name in fundraising appeals.
Nor is the October payment to Trump’s lawyers the first time the FNC has covered personal legal bills for the former president or his aides. In 2017, CNN reported that the commission spent more than $230,000 to cover some of the then-president’s legal fees related to the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference. The party also covered nearly $200,000 in legal defense fees for Donald Trump Jr., who was involved in the investigation of a meeting he had during the 2016 presidential campaign with a lawyer believed to have provided harmful information on his father’s opponent, who was then a Democratic presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton.

Either way, it remains unclear whether donors in the national Republican Party knew in advance that their contributions could be used to support the Trump family’s legal fees — a question seized by the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday.

“Rona McDaniel and the Republican National Committee are using donor funds to fund Trump’s personal legal defense while he sits on hundreds of millions of his own as well as campaign funds,” NDP spokeswoman Aduna Bell said in a statement. “If we were donors to the Republican National Committee, we would certainly be asking questions.”

Trump has not been charged in either investigation into his business dealings in New York. However, a grand jury has indicted the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, on 15 formal charges related to an alleged tax evasion scheme that has lasted for more than a decade.

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