Trump, Priebus in regular contact
Conversation was frank, with Priebus increasingly frustrated with the direction of Trump's campaign
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus spoke to Donald Trump about the direction of his campaign and his impact on down-ballot races, sources tell CNN.
The two are already in regular contact and this particular conversation was described to CNN as not confrontational – as a Time Magazine piece suggested Thursday – but rather as a broad overview of the state of the race and the ramifications of Trump’s freewheeling style.
Sean Spicer, the RNC’s chief strategist, denied on Twitter that Preibus threatened to reallocated resources from the presidential campaign to down-ballot races like House and Senate contests, as Time reported.
A senior Trump adviser said the notion that Priebus threatened Trump is “malarkey.”
Trump, speaking to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on “The O’Reilly Factor” said the account isn’t true, but if it were, he would stop fundraising for Republicans.
“He just put out a press release. He just put out a tweet saying it’s untrue,” he said of Priebus. “And I mean, if it is true, that’s OK too because all I have to do is stop funding the Republican Party. I’m the one raising the money for them. In fact, right now I’m in Orlando, I’m going to a fundraiser for the Republican Party. If they want to do that they can save me a lot of time and a lot of energy. “
A high level RNC source said there was “never a conversation about those issues – there was no threat, no ultimatum, none of that was ever a topic in any conversation over the last three weeks. It has never been a topic.”
The high level RNC source added “there have been talks about the handling of (Khizr) Khan and about (House Speaker Paul) Ryan, but the issue of reallocation of resources has never been on the table.”
The source was referring to other controversies that have emerged since last month’s GOP convention, including Trump’s feud with a Gold Star family and comments that he wasn’t prepared to back Ryan ahead of his primary race.
Still, the conversation was frank, with Priebus increasingly frustrated with the direction of Trump’s campaign, according to multiple Republican sources.
One Republican said it’s still too early to decide whether to redirect resources to House and Senate races and notes the RNC is still relying on Trump to help raise money for the general election.
Instead, the goal of the conversation with Trump was to explain that his comments can cause consequences – not just for his race, but for the rest of the GOP ticket. Members of Congress are fighting their own tough reelection battles – ones that may cause them to split with Trump or be critical of the GOP nominee on occasion.
Priebus pointed out that if GOP senators don’t win reelection, the outcome will be worse for Trump because his administration would have to deal with a Democratic Senate.
Meanwhile, tension continues to fester in the top ranks of the RNC about how to deal with Trump, according to a GOP official. There are ongoing disagreements both in terms of messaging from the communications side and allocating resources on the political side, the source said.
And Andrew Weinstein, an anti-Trump Republican, began circulating a letter for signatures that urges Priebus to focus GOP resources on helping vulnerable House and Senate races, instead of continuing to help Trump with his campaign. A draft of the letter was shared with CNN by a Republican who declined to sign it.
The letter which now has 75 signatures, including former members of Congress and former RNC staffers, but is still in draft form and has yet to be submitted.
CNN’s Dana Bash and Mark Preston contributed to this report.