ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — With airline traffic stressed because of President Donald Trump’s government shutdown and another of his advisers indicted in the Russia investigation, his party’s chairwoman on Friday had this message: Everything is fine.
“This president and his administration continue to do incredible things for our country,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said at its winter meeting.
Republicans lost 40 seats and control of the House of Representatives last November and picked up just two seats in the Senate despite having the most favorable map in decades.
McDaniel, however, spun the elections as a success for the party. “We minimized our losses in the House, in the face of a record 43 retirements,” she said — but failed to mention that many of the retirements took place because Republican members felt they could not win because of Trump’s unpopularity.
In her remarks, she did not mention Friday morning’s indictment of former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone, but did refer to what she called “manufactured scandals and baseless allegations” against Trump.
The indictment in the case, referred by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, states that Stone was in contact with a senior official of the Trump campaign in the final months of the 2016 presidential race regarding the release of stolen Hillary Clinton campaign emails. The U.S. intelligence community has stated that the emails were stolen by Russian spy agencies and passed along to WikiLeaks for release.
Trump spent the final month of the campaign praising WikiLeaks at his rallies and telling his supporters to read the emails — even though the Department of Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence on Oct. 7 stated that WikiLeaks was acting in concert with Russia.
“We love WikiLeaks!” Trump said frequently.
Shortly before her speech, McDaniel said she had not read or seen any news coverage about Stone’s indictment and could not comment on it. Many other RNC members gathered at the Hyatt Tamaya resort outside Albuquerque also said they did not know much about the indictment.
“I haven’t read it yet,” said Ron Kaufman, a longtime RNC member from Massachusetts. “I can’t comment on something I haven’t read.”
The RNC did, however, unanimously pass a resolution offering “its undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective presidency.”
The statement of support, though, does not mean the RNC is locked into backing Trump against any challengers in a primary, particularly if the Mueller investigation winds up causing legal troubles for Trump or his family, Ohio RNC member Jim Dicke said.
“Actually these resolutions have no meaning,” he said, adding that it was done only because some members particularly supportive of Trump wanted to express that. “What are the rest of us supposed to do? Say, ‘No, we don’t’?”
Dicke also said that an indictment that draws a connection between Trump’s campaign and WikiLeaks was a significant development. “This is a big deal,” he said.