politics

Private emails from RNC members reveal anger at Trump, frustration over McDaniel’s response to him

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The thread begins with a heartfelt message from committee member Richard Porter of Illinois on Thanksgiving Day.

“I sip my coffee and think how grateful I am to be part of an organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and promotion of our great nation, the ideals of which were so beautifully expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence,” Porter wrote. “I am so grateful to work alongside each of you, and each of the other people in our respective states and territories, to stop the hate and defeat the anger.”

But a few days later, the discussion quickly turned to Trump’s dinner with Ye, the rapper better known as Kanye West, and Nick Fuentes, an outspoken white nationalist and Holocaust denier.

“Is it just me or is anyone else struck by the incredible irony that Richard was writing these wonderful words within 48 hours of Donald Trump’s dinner with anti-Semitic Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, also anti-Semitic and racist, white nationalist. All Republican leaders must stand up and speak out against Trump’s actions and lack of judgment here,” committee member Bill Palatucci of New Jersey wrote on November 26.

Palatucci confirmed the authenticity of the email, noting that he had long criticized Trump in public as well. In the thread, his sentiment was echoed by Jay Shepard, a member of the Vermont national committee.

“As individuals and as a party, we must not tolerate people like Nick Fuentes and Kanye West,” Shepard wrote. “We should never give them a platform for their hatred. Paying attention to them only divides us as a nation. No Republican should be associated with them, his [sic] not who we are.

McDaniel responded to Trump’s dinner at Mar-a-Lago in a statement that read, “White supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and have no place in the Republican Party. She later called Kanye’s remarks “odious”, adding, “there is no place for Kanye, Fuentes or their views in the Republican Party.”

But she didn’t mention Trump by name.

At the time, McDaniel was trying to manage the fallout from the dinner party while managing several other major political projects. She and her team were gaining the support of the necessary number of RNC committee members to secure a fourth term. The RNC was also helping to back Herschel Walker’s candidacy in Georgia’s Senate election runoff, as private angst mounted that the Republican National Senate Committee was not committing enough funds.

In an email to the same thread from committee members on Nov. 26, David Shafer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia, described the challenges McDaniel faced.

“I feel for Ronna in the sense that I have spent much of my four years as Chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia dealing with various demands and requests that I use my platform to speak out against other Republicans” , Shafer wrote, and went on to explain to fellow members how the Georgia runoff “doesn’t grab the national imagination the way it did two years ago because there’s no way for us to reach 51″.

On Tuesday, Republicans lost the Senate runoff, prompting a follow-up email from Shafer the next day.

“Tuesday was a tough day in Georgia. Herschel was massively spent, maybe 3 to 1 in four weeks and still held firm,” Shafer wrote.

He went on to refer to the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell‘s comments on the quality of the candidates as “unnecessary” – insofar as it was seen as a dig at Walker, which McConnell endorsed – and lamented the NRSC’s limited financial support for Georgia’s runoff.

“We used our RNC transfer dollars for the ground game and were forced to fundraise entirely from within the state for our critically important mail program. Two weeks later, we were $2.5 million short when I sent what to me was an embarrassing email asking for help from other state parties,” Shafer wrote. He included a thank you note for McDaniel, whom he called “a great hero”.

“Ronna spent most of Thanksgiving week haranguing U.S. senators and her major donors asking them to help us, and she did well,” Shafer emailed. “She alone made up $1.9 million of the shortfall. THANK YOU.”

McDaniel has been open about the GOP’s midterm pitfalls and says she intends to ensure the party doesn’t suffer a similar fate in 2024. She claims the support of more than a hundred members of the RNC, according to a letter which was distributed and shared with POLITICO – well above the simple majority of 168 members needed. Asked to comment on this article, a spokesperson with the president’s re-election forwarded several statements of support from RNC members to McDaniel.

“Ronna McDaniel has grown our party from the ground up: from building a permanent national ground game and establishing a year-round election integrity operation to expanding outreach to minorities and transferring more funds to all 56 states and territories than ever before,” read North Carolina GOP Statement by Chairman Michael Whatley. “I am proud to join nearly two-thirds of RNC members in endorsing his re-election.”

But criticism of McDaniel intensified following Georgia’s runoff election. On Fox News, host Laura Ingraham said that while she loves the RNC chairman, it was time for new party leadership. Ingraham notably invited Harmeet Dhillon, a committee member from California who recently announced a challenge to McDaniel on Tucker Carlson’s show.

Dhillon’s law firm has represented Trump in legal cases — having earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, according to FEC filings — and she herself has close ties to several prominent figures in the MAGA world.

It’s unclear how beneficial that can be in a race for the RNC presidency. As the thread shows, there are members who want a clean break from Trump and who might bristle at the idea that Dhillon would take the RNC’s neutrality pledge seriously. Additionally, another prominent figure in Trump circles, Dave Bossie, a committee member from Maryland, already endorsed McDaniel last week.

Dhillon told POLITICO she had seen a “huge wave” of support for her campaign and pledged neutrality in a 2024 primary if elected.

“RNC rules require the party to be neutral in the presidential primaries process, and if elected, I would faithfully honor that obligation. During any term as RNC chairman, I would take time off from my law office and focus my energy on electing Republicans to office across the country,” Dhillon said.

Dhillon and his allies have reached out to RNC members in hopes they can return those who pledged on paper to McDaniel, according to people familiar with the campaign. Brock, for his part, said he received a slew of contact from pro-Dhillon people he didn’t know, and assumed it happened organically and was triggered by his appearances on Fox. News.

“I’m impressed that people are paying attention to the bigger campaign operation,” he said in an interview. “I think we have an obligation to listen.”

But while Brock has said he personally loves Dhillon, the courtship his allies have undertaken risks alienating some members, a person close to the RNC said. “It’s a smoke-filled back room, a papal conclave and you can piss people off,” the person said.

After Dhillon said in media appearances that members were afraid to speak out against McDaniel, at least one committee member rushed to McDaniel’s defense in a separate email sent to committee members, also obtained by POLITICO.

“We support Ronna because we believe she is the best person for the job,” wrote Jeff Kent, a committee member from Washington. “The idea that we have been bought off and paid for by transfers from state parties is an insult to our integrity.”

The email, like the others, highlights the conflicts brewing within the party and behind the scenes of the maneuvers for the presidency. They also illustrate the uncertainty that many members have with the status quo. Speaking about the trades in an interview with POLITICO, Palatucci said he loves McDaniel on a personal level.

“But I think it’s time to go,” he added. “It’s time to move on and change. The alternatives ? This is the difficult question. I think we need a change. I was encouraged [former congressman Lee] Zeldin to run and he came out and Harmeet came forward and I had a quick chat with her and I like her. I haven’t made a decision yet but… I prefer that she doesn’t change anything. It’s a bit of a Hobbesian choice.



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