Lara Trump turns RNC into latest Trump grift—and Republicans are nervous

Donald Trump is a grifter. Everything he touches is a grift. Everyone around him is a grifter—or a mark. And his grifting operation has always been a family affair. 

We know this, and we’ve always known this. A New York judge just legally confirmed that his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are in on it. This is not controversial stuff. 

Yet Republican state party leaders are now watching in abject horror as Trump initiates his latest grift: a takeover of the Republican National Committee as an additional funding vehicle for Trump’s staggering legal bills

“He’s trying to hijack the RNC before he’s even the nominee. And it’s because he’s broke,” Katon Dawson, former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, told NOTUS. “He has already spent millions worth of PAC money and he’s running out. So he needs another place to go raise money to pay his personal legal bills.”

According to the RNC’s own site, their mission is to “to fight for our proven agenda, take our message to every American, grow the party, promote election integrity, and elect Republicans up and down the ballot.” In other words, the RNC, just like its Democratic Party counterpart, the Democratic National Committee, is tasked with messaging the party’s agenda and providing the infrastructure for candidates to win at all levels of government. 

So you can imagine the horror among party bigwigs when Trump didn’t just oust the admittedly ineffectual Ronna McDaniel as the RNC’s chair, but replaced her with the ultimate nepo hire: his daughter-in-law Lara Trump. That horror would be further justified when she announced, with zero awareness of the organization’s purpose, that the committee would spend “every single penny” on Trump, that it was the “number one and only” job of the committee to elect Trump, and that it was the committee’s job to pay for Donald Trump’s legal bills

As of the end of 2023, the last time the committees reported their financial numbers, the RNC was in a serious cash crunch, with just $8 million in the bank after raising $87.2 million in 2023. At this point in 2020, the RNC had $72 million. By comparison, the DNC raised $120 million, and had $21 million in the bank. (The RNC had an additional $1.8 million in debt, compared to just $319,000 for the DNC.)

Given that Trump bled his political action committees of more than $50 million last year on legal bills alone, Republicans wouldn’t be faulted for wondering when any money will be spent on, you know, elections. 

“There is a lot of concern — from donors, state parties and campaigns that important funding could be sucked away by Trump’s mounting legal bills and that there’s nothing they can do about it,” former RNC Communications Director Doug Heye told NOTUS

This isn’t a question about funding that “could be sucked away.” That money will definitely be diverted to Trump’s legal bills and assorted grifts. Would anyone be surprised if, by the end of this year, the RNC lists Trump sneakers and NFTs in its list of assets? 

What’s particularly funny is that Republican parties in key battleground states are still reeling from Trump’s 2020 coup attempt. “You know, we’d love to have a little extra help dealing with our own legal issues that result from the 2020 election,” Georgia GOP Treasurer Laurie McClain said. A separate NOTUS report noted how the Georgia Republican Party is bleeding itself dry covering the legal expenses of the defendants charged by Fulton County District Attorney Fanni Willis in the racketeering and conspiracy case stemming from attempted interference in the election. 

But Trump, as a rule, does not help anyone except himself and (maybe) his family. He certainly won’t chip in to help his minions. If this was a James Bond movie, this cartoon villain would just shoot them or throw them into a shark tank for having failed him.

Now, there is conflicting information from the RNC about whether it will cover Trump legal bills. 

“Absolutely none” of the Republican National Committee’s funds will be used to pay former President Donald Trump’s multimillion-dollar stack of legal bills, a senior Trump campaign adviser insisted to ABC News as the former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, says that “every penny” of the party’s funds should be prioritized toward his reelection.

Yet it’s notable that this “senior adviser” didn’t put his name on the quote. So who will you believe—Lara Trump, speaking the will of grifter-in-chief Donald Trump, or some lower-level apparatchik attempting damage control after Lara had just severely sabotaged the RNC’s already-hurting fundraising operation? Donald will make the ultimate decisions on where that RNC money is going, and it’s going nowhere but in his own pockets. 

No one—especially Republicans—should expect anything different.

The economy seems to be going great, but lots of voters still say they aren’t feeling it. So how should Democrats deal with this conundrum? On this week’s episode of “The Downballot,” communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us that the first step is to reframe the debate, focusing not on “the economy”—an institution many feel is unjust—but rather on voters’ economic well-being. Shenker-Osorio advises Democrats to run on a populist message that emphasizes specifics, like delivering tangible kitchen-table economic benefits and protecting personal liberties, including the right to an abortion.

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