Over the course of the 2016 campaign and his subsequent years in office, former President Donald Trump was beatified by the Republican party, becoming its defining figure.
Ahead of the 2020 Republican National Convention, the RNC opted against adopting a new party platform, and instead put forth a motion of undying loyalty to Trump. Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) proclaimed on Twitter that Trump is the leader of the Republican party, and the former President overwhelmingly won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last month.
But the former President issued a cease-and-desist to Republican campaign entities last week, warning them not to use his name or image without explicit approval.
The letter was sent to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Politico, which originally reported the development, notes that the RNC used Trump's name in two recent emails urging Trump's "most loyal SUPPORTERS" to donate as a way of thanking him for his supposed leadership.
Trump's name and image have massive fundraising power within the Republican party. For months after now-President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign raised hundreds of millions of dollars for what supporters were told was for legal fees.
In reality, much of that money went to the Republican National Committee.
One Trump official told Politico:
"President Trump remains committed to the Republican Party and electing America First conservatives, but that doesn't give anyone—friend or foe—permission to use his likeness without explicit approval,"
Trump's potentially lucrative demonstration of his stranglehold on the Republican party generated mockery from its critics.
Well, this is funny. https://t.co/oIDxTGfdnK— Saeed Jones (@Saeed Jones) 1615051004.0
I literally can't stop laughing... that's hilarious on a heretofore unseen level. I really hope they treat it lik… https://t.co/wpCOL5fsm3— Shannon in Ohio 4 (@Shannon in Ohio 4) 1615047843.0
LOL. “All your campaign dollars they are mine.” https://t.co/C0Vk0lj5Rq— David Corn (@David Corn) 1615050245.0
Hey GOP!?!?!?! Turns out Donald Trump doesn't think it's *his* party after all!!!! Aren't you glad you sacrificed… https://t.co/7nYEjmIDEF— emptywheel (@emptywheel) 1615047272.0
jesus wept from laughing so hard https://t.co/MJKREACFjk— Neanderthal Governor In MS (@Neanderthal Governor In MS) 1615047619.0
Some speculated on Trump's motives for the cease-and-desist.
At CPAC Trump told supporters to only give to HIS PAC. He can use $ from PAC for personal expenses. Just a guess (😉… https://t.co/WMTmrQIVNh— Lotsofur 2.0 (@Lotsofur 2.0) 1615188776.0
Solid. Don't kiss the ring, can't use the name. https://t.co/wTStCxdpAJ— Beej Das (@Beej Das) 1615160936.0
This feels like a “third party inbound” situation. Or a “I’m not running.” https://t.co/Gnj61zpdW5— OZIO (@OZIO) 1615156290.0
According to Politico, GOP fundraising officials have privately said it's practically impossible not to use Trump's name in its emails.