Trump Campaign Blocks Anti-Abortion Activists from RNC Platform

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Posted 14 days ago

Trump campaign blocks pair of anti-abortion activists from RNC platform committee

The Trump campaign has reportedly blocked two South Carolina delegates, LaDonna Ryggs and former state party chair Chad Connelly, from serving on the Republican National Committee's platform committee. The pair, who have been longtime party activists, made it clear during their campaign for the platform committee that they would not vote to "water down" the party's positions on abortion, marriage, or Israel.

A Trump campaign official disputed that Ryggs and Connelly were ever on the platform committee and maintained that two other people were the ones properly elected to the body by South Carolina's convention delegates. The official suggested that the "state party" had tried to circumvent the RNC.

Danielle Alvarez, a spokesperson for the Trump campaign and RNC, said in a statement that the platform committee "has yet to convene to discuss what language should be in the final document." However, anti-abortion groups fear that the RNC's platform committee is about to make Trump's leave-abortion-to-the-states position the official position of the Republican Party. Doing so, they say, would undo decades of progress by their movement to restrict access to the procedure at all levels of government.

Ralph Reed, founder and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, warned that such a move could cost Trump the election. "I would strongly urge the leadership of the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to proceed with great caution on the platform and avoid doing anything that would discourage or in any way deflate the enthusiasm of pro-life and evangelical voters," he said.

Delegates in four other states told POLITICO they, too, had been blocked by operatives with the Trump campaign from securing seats on the platform committee. According to affidavits prepared for the RNC's committee on contests, the Trump campaign and RNC staffers held a separate vote to elect a different slate of platform committee delegates. The documents allege that at least two GOP staffers who were formerly employed by the Trump campaign "pressured them to vote against" Ryggs and Connelly and tried to "circumvent" the official vote.

Two slates of convention committee members were ultimately elected — one slate from the meeting organized by the Trump staffers, and another, including Connelly and Ryggs, at the party's official meeting that was presided over by South Carolina GOP Chair Drew McKissick. Ryggs and Connelly have appealed the RNC's decision to accept the other slate of convention committee members, though no hearing has been set.

Ryggs, who said in her affidavit that she has been such a loyal supporter of Trump that she and her husband had a gun pulled on them while knocking on doors for the campaign in 2020, served on the RNC's platform committee three times previously, including in 2016 when she celebrated the party moving its positions on social issues to the right. Connelly, who runs a faith-based conservative group, was the RNC's national director of faith engagement under previous chair Reince Priebus.

While many prominent anti-abortion leaders have weighed in with proposed language and called for the RNC to open platform meetings to activists and press, some in the movement have publicly and privately said their suggestions seem to be falling flat with Trump and at RNC headquarters. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a member of the platform committee, accused RNC Chair Michael Whatley of "stalling tactics" in a letter on Monday about efforts to ensure the meetings are open. Closing the meetings, Perkins wrote in the letter, "heightens speculation that the GOP platform will be watered down to a few pages of meaningless, poll-tested talking points."

A Trump campaign official said the meeting would be closed to members of the press, though guest passes would be available. Members of the platform committee, largely elected by convention delegates in their states, are set to gather in Milwaukee starting Sunday to iron out the party's updated platform after foregoing changes in 2020.

The move by the Trump campaign to block anti-abortion activists from serving on the platform committee has sparked concerns among social conservatives that the party may be moving away from its longstanding opposition to abortion. Some have warned that such a move could cost Trump the election, as evangelical Christians make up a significant portion of the Republican base.

However, polling shows that Trump has the support of an overwhelming majority of evangelical Christians, and there is no evidence that droves of social conservatives would stay home if Republicans endorse a more moderate platform on abortion. Nonetheless, a rebuff from the Trump campaign threatens to divide a party that has largely managed to remain united behind the former president as Democrats grapple with internal divisions over whether Biden is even fit to run.


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