Lara Trump says RNC needs to raise $500 million, sees interest in paying Trump legal fees

By Nathan Layne

NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) -Lara Trump, who Donald Trump has endorsed to be the new co-chair of the Republican National Committee, said on Wednesday that the organization needed to raise $500 million for the 2024 general election and did not rule out using raised funds to pay her father-in-law's mounting legal fees.

Warning that the Democratic Party was flush with cash, Trump's daughter-in-law said the party needed a strong fundraising push to help Trump in his bid to return to the White House and for congressional races also up for grabs.

Lara Trump made the comments at the Trump campaign's headquarters in North Charleston where she sought to rally supporters ahead of South Carolina's Republican primary on Saturday. Trump is the frontrunner on track to win the party's nomination and face President Joe Biden in November.

"We need to raise about half a billion dollars between now and November 5th," she told the gathering. "We gotta make sure that people understand when they donate their money to the RNC, indeed it's going go to causes that they care about."

The RNC, which is off to a slow start this election cycle, took in about $890 million during the 2020 cycle.

Earlier this month Trump endorsed North Carolina Republican Party Chair Michael Whatley as the next RNC chair and Lara as co-chair as part of a leadership shakeup. The move came amid a flurry of media reports indicating he had grown frustrated with the current chair, Ronna McDaniel, over lackluster fundraising and the party's performance at the ballot box.

Lara Trump was asked by media at Wednesday's event whether she would use funds raised by the RNC to pay legal fees for her father-in-law's numerous criminal and civil cases. In response, she said she didn't know whether it would be allowed under RNC rules but could see such payments as being in line with the interests of the party's rank-and-file members.

"I think that is a big interest to people. Absolutely," she said, arguing that many Republicans believe the cases against Trump are politically motivated and therefore want to help. "They feel like it's an attack not just on Donald Trump but on this country."

Earlier this month Trump was found liable for nearly $355 million in penalties in a civil fraud case in New York that dealt a significant blow to his family business. Trump has denied wrongdoing and derided the case as politically motivated.

(reporting by Nathan Layne in North Charleston; Editing by Michael Perry)