RNC Can’t Pay Trump’s Legal Bills if He’s a Candidate

An interesting wrinkle in the 2024 race.

The Hill (“RNC chair says committee can’t pay Trump’s legal bills if he announces 2024 run“):

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Sunday told CNN the committee cannot pay former President Trump’s legal bills if he announces a bid for the White House in 2024.

The RNC’s executive committee last year confirmed it was paying for certain legal fees “that relate to politically motivated legal proceedings waged against President Trump,” and in recent months the committee has funded Trump’s defense against probes launched by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D).

McDaniel told CNN’s Dana Bash that the committee “cannot pay legal bills for any candidate that’s announced” after Bash asked her if the RNC would stop paying Trump’s legal bills if he makes another run for the White House.

“We cannot pay legal bills for any candidate that’s announced. So these are bills that came from the Letitia James lawsuit that started while he was president,” McDaniel said. “It was voted on by our executive committee for our former president, that this was a politically motivated investigation and that’s what it’s been.”

“But we cannot do in kind contributions to any candidate right now. He’s the former president being attacked from every which way with lawsuits, and he’s certainly raised more under the RNC than we’ve spent on these bills,” she added.

That’s an interesting wrinkle and one I hadn’t previously considered.

It’s weird, and arguably improper, for the RNC to be paying Trump’s legal bills in suits arising out of his fraudulent activities as a private citizen. I could understand paying for suits that were related to his duties as President but outside of what the taxpayer funded. But the New York suits are all about his private business activities. Why was the RNC paying for that?

But, yes, it makes sense that the RNC can’t make contributions to candidates for office during the primary cycle. I doubt that the prospect of losing this financial support will dissuade Trump from running but it would have to be a consideration for a normal candidate.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    Why was the RNC paying for that?

    It’s right above, in her quote:

    “…he’s certainly raised more under the RNC than we’ve spent on these bills,” she added.”

    Glad it’s out in the open, because he’s going to have to do some real math here (or, have someone else do the math). Him running would also require that he raise money for his campaign, not just grifting to pay his legal bills.

    What to do, what to do.

  2. MarkedMan says:

    If Trump is responsible for paying his own legal fees, will the same lawyers work for him?

  3. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: My guess would be “no,” but it’s only a guess. If they could get the RNC to promise that it’ll pay the bill post election, that might factor in.

  4. CSK says:

    The RNC has made it clear for a while that it would no longer foot Trump’s legal bills if he decided to run again.

    A few days before he left office in Jan. 2021, he threatened to form his own party. McDaniel told him if he did, they’d stop paying his lawyers. Trump decided to remain a Republican.

  5. Kathy says:

    But think of the fundraising potential once Benito and the BNC* get prosecuted for illegal payments under the table.

    “King” is not as simple and unchanging a term throughout history. But what El Cheeto means, and the way it gets understood by most people, is as the absolutist, divine-right monarchs of Europe. And what the Covidiot King wants, he had better get if you want to keep your head.

    He wants top white-shoe firm lawyers and, more important, he wants someone else to pay for them. Do you want your head?

    *Not a typo.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    The law/rules/this piece of paper says the RNC can’t pay Trump’s legal bills once he’s a candidate? Well, I’m sure that means they won’t then.

  7. Scott F. says:

    Remember when legal troubles sufficient to cost hundreds of thousands in attorney’s fee would make a candidate unsuitable to run for public office? Seems almost quaint now.

  8. Argon says:

    Useful to clear the way for Gov. Florida Man.

  9. Jax says:

    @Neil Hudelson: “Yeah, never mind these legal bills we’re footing for Ronald P. Dump, it’s DEFINITELY a different guy and ABSOLUTELY NOT a candidate for President. Why, that would be ILLEGAL!!!” 😛

  10. gVOR08 says:

    What @Neil Hudelson: said. What, exactly, prevents the RNC from paying a candidate’s legal bills and how hard is it to change (for only one candidate)?

    Also, what protection against the DOJ does Trump actually get from declaring? Surely even the Federalist Supremos realize you can’t set yourself above the law just by declaring for prez. (Yeah, right.)

    I suspect Trump and his minions are closeted as we speak debating these very questions.

  11. CSK says:


    I suspect that Trump believes he can spin out any legal matter until he takes office in January 2025.

  12. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: The RNC doesn’t provide any in-kind donations to candidates during a primary. The minute Trump declares he is a candidate, paying his legal bills becomes an in-kind donation to his campaign.

    What prevents them from doing so? Mostly, it’s long-standing direction from the executive committee that prevents getting involved in open primaries (meaning, no incumbent). Trump is not President, so there will be a primary for the Republican nomination for 2024. The RNC, to my knowledge, has never provided monetary or in-kind support to individual candidates in open or Democratically-held seats. They do provide support to incumbents, IIRC.

    It boils down to money. You don’t blow all of your cash on hand fighting other Republicans in the primary, you save it for when you need it to win seats in the General election.

  13. Kathy says:


    There’a a type of person who prefers to do things illegally, or at least in a quasi-legal fashion (using connections, bribes, etc.), than legally and through channels. Either because it’s faster, or because it shows them to be a big shot and not some kind of common, regular, peasant, type of person.

    Kind of sounds familiar in this context, right?

    So, if the BNC (still not a typo), can’t pay the Cheeto legal bills because of its rules, then it wouldn’t be illegal if they did anyway. they’d just piss off a lot of people like DeSantis and other 2024 hopefuls, and others in the party.

    To avoid this, they may funnel money through some tangle of shell companies, intermediaries, and so on, in what would amount to fraud against the BNC itself and the party as a whole. I am sure this is illegal.

    If Benito declares his run, as he’s certain to rather soon, I’d take a hard look at the finances of his attorneys to see if they keep getting paid. If they are, even with personal checks from El Cheeto, I’d till look at what money is coming into the Orange Ass or his businesses. because he won’t pass up a chance to do something corruptly with someone else’s money that he could do openly with his own money.

    TL;DR Lock him up.

  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: That may be a reasonable assumption. Two years is the blink of an eye for a controversial case or one involving complicated legal questions.

  15. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I figure he’s gambling on that.

  16. mattbernius says:


    I suspect that Trump believes he can spin out any legal matter until he takes office in January 2025.

    I cannot comment on the Jan 2025 (though I definitely think he assumes that) part, but I fully expect him to run again in order to delay any possible prosecution. And he’s entirely right about that part. I don’t see much possibility of prosecuting an announced Presidential candidate–even with a special counsel.

  17. KM says:


    I don’t see much possibility of prosecuting an announced Presidential candidate–even with a special counsel.

    then we’re done as a country. The investigation started *before* his announcement so it will be blatantly clear that running = immunity from prosecution. Anyone can run for President so we are effectively telling every criminal in America they can run of office to get out of legal consequences, from the lowliest thief to the biggest of con men. You don’t have to *win*, remember – just run. In fact, you don’t even have to be a national candidate, just qualify in one state and it would count as “political persecution”. Thousands and thousands of indie campaigns that never have to go anywhere, just announce and thus be a “candidate”.

    The cluster this will create will be awesome to behold. In fact, we should be recommending to people suffering from unjust legal issues to declare a Presidential run. Might bet the best few hundred bucks you ever spent…..

  18. CSK says:

    @mattbernius: @KM:

    If Trump’s indicted and even convicted in Georgia and NY, he can still run for the presidency. If he’s incited by the federal govt. for inciting and insurrection, the Constitution bars him from running.

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen: I appreciate the detailed answer on why the RNC won’t pay Trump’s legal bills. But what you’re saying is it’s RNC policy, not a matter of law. Which is to say it’s a norm, a guardrail, more of a guideline really.

    Why do I expect a public announcement that they’re not paying his bills anymore, followed a month later by them quietly picking them up again?

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Or well paid lawyers.

  21. Jen says:

    @gVOR08: Paying an in-kind donation, in support of a candidate who is bound to be in a primary head-to-head with other Republicans, would open the floodgates to demands of support from other candidates.

    I suppose it’s not impossible, but I would be astonished if the RNC changed policy because it would cost them a LOT of money both now, and down the line, to do so. The companies that write big checks to the RNC have a voice in this too. There are ways to get help to Trump that wouldn’t require a massive change in long-standing policy.

    I suppose we can dream about it happening. It certainly would benefit Democrats if Republicans started lighting fire to piles of cash.

  22. Chris says:

    It won’t matter. Trump will just do an end round, raise a stink load of campaign cash and pay his legal bills (when he is made to). In other words, Trump will violate election laws and the FEC won’t do squat to him. Additionally, the RNC will cave and do whatever it needs to in order to survive a looming Trump campaign onslaught regardless of election ethics and laws.

  23. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: @Jen: @Chris:

    Ken Griffin, CEO of Citadel, described as a Republican mega-donor, says that it’s time to move on from Trump and that he’s backing DeSantis.

  24. CSK says:

    According to The Hill. Trump is leaning toward announcing his candidacy for 2024 tonight at a rally for J.D. Vance.

    He wants to take credit for any wins by Rs tomorrow.

  25. Jen says:

    @CSK: JFC. These attention-seeking “billionaires” (true in the case of Musk) are so exhausting.

  26. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Dammed it he does, and… well… nothing if he don’t.

    Seriously, if he does not run, it would be WAY better for him. Definitely better for the GOP (as Cheney will likely run as an independent to block him). But I would venture a guess that his ego won’t let that happen. Because it has to be about him.

    EXTRA BONUS ROUND: If he does run, a watchdog group will sue to prevent his candidacy based on the 14th Amendment


  27. Gustopher says:

    @CSK: Hasn’t Trump been leaning towards making an announcement in the next week for the past 6-12 months or more? Eventually, one of these reports will be true, but there’s no reason to assume any specific one is.

    Dude just likes to hear his own name.

    (I would like to hear his name followed by “indicted,” “guilty,” “sentenced,” “jailed,” or “died in a tragic water bed accident.”)

  28. CSK says:


    Well, Trump’s aides are purportedly trying to talk him out of making an announcement tonight by telling him he might be blamed for any losses the Republicans might incur tomorrow.