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At the end of CNN's August 9, 2022 video Analysis: How FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago could help Trump in 2024 (after about 10:00) host Brianna Keilar asks about the former US president potentially announcing candidacy in the 2024 presidential election. What I find interesting and don't understand is Dana Bash's statement about the announcement stopping a "money train" from the Republican National Committee:

Keilar: How does this affect his calculus on an announcement, Alyssa?

Griffin: I think it just sped it up. I was already anticipating that by September he would announce, but I think that he's going to try this theory that you can't indict a president, but he's also going to push it a bit further and say "and I'm a candidate for the presidency". He's going to argue that he's the front runner for the presidency and that that legal theory should spill over. So I think he's moving up his announcement, I think that to him, this is a good day, he's got the momentum he needs, the base has rallied around him, and I'd expect an announcement soon.

Bash: One small factor, that's probably not so small in his mind though, that you know, as somebody who has worked in politics before; the minute he announces he loses a big money train. And that is the money that is coming from a joint agreement with the RNC, that helps him pay his legal bills. And his legal bills are not small.

Question: Why would a former US president lose a big money train from the RNC to pay for their legal bills as soon as they announce candidacy in the next presidential election?

If that is simply part of the agreement, couldn't they simply modify it to continue to pay for his legal bills? It seems likely those expenses will continue to increase between now and 2024, so if the RNC wants to continue to support his candidacy then keeping him away from a felony conviction or other event that removes him from candidacy would seem paramount.


  • "Former White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin and CNN's Dana Bash" and CNN's Brianna Keilar.
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  • While the campaign-finance tag is not a perfect fit, I don't know how better to classify financial assistance from the RNC to Trump.
    – uhoh
    Aug 9 at 23:25
  • 1
    I'm probably misunderstanding your intent. The GOP still has to run a primary for 2024; there's no hard guarantee that Trump will win that. The RNC has to consider all state laws, and favoring one candidate over another could be problematic. But until Trump becomes a candidate in the primaries (covered under state laws), he's a former US president.
    – MSalters
    Aug 9 at 23:46
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    @MSalters my intent is to understand the mechanics of why an announcement would cut the flow of this money. I can certainly understand why some would feel that "favoring one candidate over another could be problematic" but on the other hand others may feel that favoring a candidate with so much resonance with (a substantial fraction of) the electorate is a winning strategy, and winning seems to be important here. On the other hand If it's state-by-state law (or federal law) that is the deciding factor and not optics, then that's likely the answer.
    – uhoh
    Aug 9 at 23:50
  • Trump cannot consistently claim that candidates have some form of immunity when his former camapign was largely built upon "but Huillary's emails!". Aug 10 at 12:19
  • 1
    @TRiG That's almost exactly what I first wrote, but removed from my comment before submission :) Aug 11 at 14:45

4 Answers 4

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From the July 28, 2022 Yahoo article, by Cheryl Teh, The RNC has been helping Trump pay his legal bills but will pull the plug once he kicks off his 2024 campaign:

The Republican National Committee has been helping former President Donald Trump fund his legal battles but would stop if he declares a 2024 run, ABC News reported.

The outlet spoke to an unnamed RNC official, who said that payments would dry up once Trump announces he's running for the GOP presidential nomination.

The official attributed this to the GOP's "neutrality policy," which means that the party needs to be impartial to all candidates in the run-up to the presidential primary."

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  • 7
    This makes the most sense because if you are going to fund one candidate, you would have to fund them all or you end up in a "super delegate" position that nominate who the party wants vs who the voters want
    – boatcoder
    Aug 10 at 11:10
  • 2
    I guess they could start back up once primary season is over. But they might not if he doesn't win the nomination.
    – Barmar
    Aug 10 at 13:51
  • 2
    So they're effectively bribing him to not run? That's hilarious.
    – Michael
    Aug 11 at 7:58
  • 9
    @Shadur you don't become a billionaire by spending your own money.
    – Caleth
    Aug 11 at 22:22
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    @JamieB They are not "weasel" words, when they have a source provide them information on the condition that they do not get named what do you expect them to do? Should they just refuse to report on information because the source is wanting to stay anonymous? Or should they ignore what the source wants and publish their name thus ensuring that they don't get other people coming to them with information? There is only so much a reporter can do when a source doesn't want to be named.
    – Joe W
    Aug 12 at 13:28
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I just searched for the state law on election funds that I could find, and the first I found happened to be Maryland's. Their guide states:

It is prohibited for any candidate or political committee to use campaign funds for legal or other expenses related to investigations or court proceedings that do not have a direct connection with the candidacy. For example, investigations or charges involving misconduct in an individual’s employment or public office are not campaign-related

It seems that Trump's current legal expenses relate to alleged misconduct in his first presidency, and not (yet) to misconduct while running for the presidency in 2024. Even if it turns out that the agreement between Trump and the RNC would survive scrutiny in Maryland, what are the chances that it would be OK with all such clauses across all states ?

Now "all states" might be somewhat over the top. Trump probably would benefit if he was legally unable to run in California. He's not going to win there anyway, but it would improve his chances elsewhere. Still, he needs to abide by the laws of all states where he needs to run.

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  • 5
    State laws don't really apply as this is a federal level election with federal level rules
    – Joe W
    Aug 10 at 0:39
  • 10
    @JoeW There's no such thing as a federal election. Presidential elections are state elections, and candidates for president need to apply and qualify for ballot access in every state where they want to run. See, for instance, the Wikipedia page for 3rd-party candidates in 2020, which has a handy map for every candidate showing what states they were on the ballot in. Of all the third-party candidates in 2020, only Jo Jorgenson (Libertarian) was on the ballot in all 50 states.
    – Andrew Ray
    Aug 10 at 13:31
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    @AndrewRay There are such things as federal election rules
    – Joe W
    Aug 10 at 15:39
  • 3
    @JoeW sure, but state rules still apply.
    – Andrew Ray
    Aug 10 at 16:57
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    @JoeW regardless of how the funds are stored, presidential campaigns have to avoid violating state law as well as federal law.
    – phoog
    Aug 10 at 18:25
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Obviously, Trump wants to run against Biden in the general presidential election, but before he does so, he has to win the Republican presidential primary, so if he announces his candidacy for the presidency, he would be first and foremost be announcing his intent to run against other Republicans for the Republican nomination. And once he's running against other Republicans, the Republican party would want to be neutral in that race, and not give funds to a particular candidate.

“The bylaws of the party are you have to remain neutral, that’s just the way the RNC’s written” McDaniel told reporters during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last year. “We’re focused on 2022.” https://www.politico.com/news/2022/07/11/rnc-trump-2024-neutrality-00045008

Once (and if) he wins the nomination, this logic would not apply, so I would think that after that the party could resume giving him financial assistance. But that would be nearly two years in which he would be cut off from Republican general coffers, while also needing to spend on his campaign.

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  • This is a logical explanation as the RNC can't fund the legal defense of a single candidate and not others.
    – Joe W
    Aug 12 at 13:23
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I don't think there are legal issues here. The RNC is a private organization like any other, and they can do what they want (within relevant legal and regulatory restrictions). It seems logical that they would want to act in a manner that is seen as "fair" to all candidates that they support. We see that the published bylaws for the organization, in section Rule 11, support this idea:

The Republican National Committee shall not, without the prior written and filed approval of all members of the Republican National Committee from the state involved, contribute money or in-kind aid to any candidate for any public or party office of that state, except the nominee of the Republican Party or a candidate who is unopposed in the Republican primary after the filing deadline for that office.

So if the RNC applies this section of their bylaws to Trump, they would stop providing legal support when he becomes a candidate. Whether they choose to do this or not is a separate question...

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  • There are federal laws around what funds a candidate can use for legal defense.
    – Joe W
    Aug 12 at 22:02
  • Those regulations apply to funds that are contributions to a candidate’s “campaign funds”. The RNC funds discussed here are not under the control of the Donald Trump campaign.
    – mhopeng
    Aug 13 at 0:32
  • I kind of feel like Trump's whole political career has been based around redefining what constitutes "fair" in his direction. Maybe the RNC bylaws will hold fast against that, or maybe not. Aug 13 at 0:42
  • They also cover any money that is spent in the name of the candidate and a legal defense fund is something that would qualify.
    – Joe W
    Aug 13 at 1:32

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