The Republican National Committee is denying a cease-and-desist demand from Donald Trump’s attorneys, who asked the party organization to stop using the former president’s name and likeness in fundraising appeals.
In a letter sent Monday afternoon to Trump attorney Alex Cannon, RNC chief counsel Justin Riemer asserted that the committee “has every right to refer to public figures as it engages in core, First Amendment-protected political speech, and it will continue to do so in pursuit of these common goals.”
The letter is a brush-back to the Trump team, which sent a March 5 request that the RNC “immediately cease and desist the unauthorized use of President Donald J. Trump’s name, image, and/or likeness in all fundraising, persuasion, and/or issue speech.”
Trump attorneys sent letters to a cadre of GOP committees asking them stop using Trump in fundraising appeals, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee. Other groups loosely affiliated with the party have also received notices.
An NRCC spokesperson declined to comment on how the organization planned to respond to the cease-and-desist letters. An NRSC spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
The dust-up represents a rare break between the Trump team and the RNC, which during the 2020 campaign worked together through a joint fundraising vehicle to raise over $366 million. The two sides merged their political and digital operations together into a single operation in the run-up to last year’s election, and their fundraising activities were closely aligned. Trump and McDaniel speak frequently, and just after the election, he endorsed her to serve a third term as party chair — a nod that paved the way for her reelection.
But as he plots out his plans to exact revenge on his perceived Republican enemies in the 2022 midterm elections, the former president has begun to assert greater control over how his name is used to generate fundraising dollars. Just days before the cease-and-desist letters were sent, Trump delivered a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he said that the “only… way” to financially support Trump-aligned Republicans was through Save America, his leadership political action committee.
Trump launched the PAC just after the 2020 election, during which time it raised tens of millions of dollars. Trump can use the committee to donate to candidates of his choosing and to fund other political activities.
Separately, he has tapped longtime adviser Corey Lewandowski to spearhead a super PAC, which will be able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. Brad Parscale has re-entered Trump’s orbit after being fired as campaign manager last summer and is helping with digital fundraising efforts.
Some senior Republicans say they believed that last week’s cease-and-desist demand was driven by the advisers surrounding Trump, not the former president himself. And most have scoffed at the request, asserting that they are allowed to use Trump’s name in fundraising appeals given that he is a public figure.
The RNC has continued to invoke Trump in several fundraising appeals since it received the cease-and-desist request. It sent a pair of Trump-themed fundraising emails over the weekend, and on Monday it emailed donors asking them to help “defend President Trump’s legacy.”
In his letter, Riemer writes that Trump and McDaniel “enjoy a close relationship, and we understand that President Trump reaffirmed to her over the weekend that he approves of the RNC’s current use of his name in fundraising and other materials, including for our upcoming donor retreat event at Palm Beach at which we look forward to him participating.”
A Trump spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has long been sensitive about people making money off his name. In 2019, Trump’s campaign scolded David Bossie, a longtime informal adviser to the former president, amid allegations that he deceptively used Trump’s name to raise money for an outside group that he was overseeing.
While the RNC and Trump campaign worked closely during last year’s campaign, there were at times tensions between the two sides. McDaniel and former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien have long been seen as rivals, and during the waning days of the election communication broke down between the committee and the campaign. While the campaign was skeptical of data the RNC was providing, committee officials were critical of TV advertisements the reelection effort was airing.