Bitter RNC presidential race troubled by questions about Trump’s allegiance

Republican Speaker Ronna McDaniel, facing a surprisingly aggressive challenge to her leadership, has argued in recent weeks that she is best positioned to prevent former President Donald Trump from forming a third party if he does not win the 2024 Republican presidential nomination next year. according to several people involved in the talks.

He made the comments while privately campaigning among the 168 voting members of the Republican National Committee to win re-election to another two-year term next week at a party rally in California, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private exchanges. A person close to McDaniel said he has spoken about the need to make sure all potential presidential candidates, including Trump critics, support the eventual nominee.

McDaniel has been challenged in her bid for a fourth term as party chair by a fledgling and surprising coalition that encompasses both Trump opponents, who blame McDaniel for being too close to the former president, and some of Trump’s main public supporters. Trump, as the chair of the Arizona Republican Party. Kelli Ward, who call for organization reform.

They have argued that Harmeet Dhillon, a Republican lawyer whose firm has represented Trump and the RNC and who helped obtain damages from adult film actress Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf, will be better positioned to lead the party. They also criticize McDaniel for the Republican electoral disappointments in the three election cycles that have taken place since he became president.

“The reality is that every time Donald Trump says ‘JUMP,’ Ronna asks ‘HOW HIGH,’” read an email sent by Tennessee committee member Oscar Brock to some two dozen voting members Thursday. . Brock criticized McDaniel in the email for hiring current and former Trump advisers to work for the party, and for allowing the RNC to play a role in Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election of President Biden.

Brock wrote that he now wants the party to “put Trump behind us.” “To do that, we must also leave Ronna McDaniel behind,” she wrote.

McDaniel’s allies are confident they will prevail at next week’s meeting, when MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an outspoken denier of the 2020 election result, will also be on the ballot. McDaniel’s team believes it has more than 100 committed voters, far more than the committee majority needed to win.

“Republicans are one big campaign party and we need to stick together if we’re going to win in 2024,” McDaniel said in a statement Thursday. “It is in that spirit that I have carried out this campaign, and that is why I am honored to have earned the trust and support of so many members of the NCR.”

Dhillon’s aides list just 28 RNC voter endorsements on his campaign website, along with endorsements from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and conservative media personalities such as Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, Mark Levin and Ben Shapiro. Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk has backed Dhillon, threatening to rally activists to seek the removal of RNC members who fail to heed grassroots demands.

Caroline Wren, a Dhillon adviser, said there was a large contingency of members who publicly supported McDaniel out of fear of retaliation from their allies, but would privately vote for Dhillon in a secret ballot. Many of the remaining votes that Dhillon’s team hopes to get come from Trump’s critics in the party.

“The RNC chair’s job is to unite Republicans, so I commend Ronna McDaniel for her ability to unite all factions of the Republican Party against her candidacy,” Wren said.

Meanwhile, McDaniel and his allies have argued that they are best able to maintain party unity, both because of their party-building record over the past six years and because of their relationship with Trump. McDaniel has blamed Dhillon for increasing divisions in the party.

“I’m sick of the scapegoating: ‘This person didn’t do enough and I’m going to attack them,’” McDaniel said this month on “Ruthless,” a podcast run by Republican political consultants. “I hear that coming at me, and I think it’s really baseless and unfair, especially from someone on the committee in a leadership role who is now throwing darts, when he could have asked really productive questions throughout and didn’t. ”

McDaniel has said he will conduct a completely neutral primary season and has already launched a process to guide the presidential nomination debates. Since Trump declared his candidacy, the national party has stopped paying the former president’s legal bills in an investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, an investigation that Republican leaders have called political.

Dhillon, a member of the California RNC, founded a law firm that represented Trump during the House investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol and during the legal dispute with Daniels, who had accused Trump of an extramarital affair. . Dhillon called the January 6 congressional investigation “a purely political witch hunt.”

“My team was honored to represent President Trump,” Dhillon wrote after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees. Dhillon’s firm has also worked for the RNC, representing party officials before the January 6 committee and helping to sue Google over its handling of party fundraising emails.

“I have publicly and repeatedly promised that, as RNC chair, I will ensure that the RNC is neutral in both face and substance during the primary,” Dhillon said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Bill Palatucci, a member of the New Jersey committee, said he will not vote to return McDaniel to chair because of his work with Trump in recent years and his refusal to condemn the former president for criticizing other Republican lawmakers. Although he had not agreed to vote for Dhillon, he said she had told him that her work for Trump was in the context of legal representation, not personal loyalty.

He said he suspects McDaniel is on weaker ground than he has acknowledged with the party’s voting members.

“Her supporters keep telling me that she has everything under control,” Palatucci said of McDaniel. “She is working very hard if she has all this under control.”

Other critics of Trump and McDaniel within the party have expressed skepticism that Dhillon can chart a new direction or attract enough votes, in part because of his decision to work with the likes of Kirk, Ward and Wren, who recently advised Kari Lake, an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Arizona, and helped organize the public rally at the national mall on January 6, 2021.

“Harmeet surrounded himself with the wrong people,” said another voting member, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly. “Harmeet’s argument is that Ronna is a loser and that she has a lot of consultants and others who get rich, and the RNC is totally ineffective. Ronna’s argument is that Harmeet would put crazy people in charge of the Republican Party.”

McDaniel has also received the endorsement of conservative radio host Erick Erickson, who said this week that after initially opposing McDaniel, he had been persuaded by other Republican elected officials to support her.

“They said, ‘Actually, you want to keep her there. Because she’s one of the few people who’s been able to bridge the gap between people who don’t like Trump and people who like Trump,’” Erickson said.

The final outcome is unlikely to be clear until Republicans convene in Dana Point, California, for a January 25-27 meeting.

“This is not like running for Congress. This is like running for class president. Everybody knows everybody,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime committee member from Massachusetts and current party treasurer. He is rooting for McDaniel and hopes she wins.

“RNC caucuses are like a convention,” Kaufman said. “Once a convention starts, the rumors make the difference and the things that are said make the difference.”

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