Prominent Republican Seeks to Shield the Party From Paying Trump’s Legal Bills

A veteran Republican National Committee member has initiated a long-shot effort to prevent Donald J. Trump from taking over the party committee before he has enough delegates to become the presumptive presidential nominee in an effort to prevent the R.N.C. from paying his legal bills.

Henry Barbour, a committee member from Mississippi, has sponsored two resolutions, one that would require the committee to remain neutral in the primary and another that would assure it does not spend committee funds to assist Mr. Trump in his legal battles. The proposals, which would not be binding even if passed, come as Mr. Trump seeks to install new leadership in the organization, including Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, who has said she would be open to the committee paying his legal bills.

The resolutions, which were first reported by The Dispatch, have come under fire from the Trump campaign.

“The primary is over, and it is the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House,” said Chris LaCivita, a top Trump adviser who is expected to move into a top role at the R.N.C. “Efforts to delay that assist Joe Biden in the destruction of our nation. Republicans cannot stand on the sidelines and allow this to happen.”

The neutrality proposal is directly related to the primary: After the South Carolina primary, only four early states will have held contests. Mr. Trump has a fraction of the delegates he needs, and Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is still running, although she has yet to win a state.

The other resolution has been more in the forefront of some R.N.C. members’ minds: It seeks to bar the committee from paying Mr. Trump’s legal fees as he faces four criminal indictments and two enormous civil lawsuits.

It seeks to codify that “the Republican National Committee should focus its spending on political efforts associated with winning elections and make clear from this point forward that the RNC’s financial resources are to be used to assist candidates across the country winning elections” this year and that the committee “will not pay the legal bills of any of our candidates for any federal or state office, but will focus our spending on efforts directly related to the 2024 election.”

Mr. Barbour, in an interview, conceded that neither resolution was likely to pass, given Mr. Trump’s strength in the party, but he said that sending a message was important.

“Just wait till you have the delegates,” he said of Mr. Trump’s effort to take over the party before the primary has concluded.

“This is not going to pass, I understand that,” he said. “It’s about making a point.”

Mr. Trump has endorsed the North Carolina Republican Party chairman, Michael Whatley, to take over as chair, and Ms. Trump as co-chair.

Ms. Trump’s new position — which still has to be voted on by party members — has in particular raised eyebrows, given Mr. Trump’s looming financial issues. He has used a small-donor-seeded political action committee that he controls, Save America, to pay his legal bills for most of the last three years. But that group is running low on funds.

Ms. Trump made headlines this week when she suggested that Mr. Trump’s legal fees were a concern for Republicans and would not definitively say if the party would pick up the tab. In 2021, the party committee paid for more than $1 million in legal bills as Mr. Trump was investigated by officials in New York but already out of office.

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