Party risks drowning with 'Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck,' Republicans' letter says
Draft letter to RNC chairman calls for party to cut off funding in race for White House
Frustrated Republicans have signed a letter urging RNC chairman Reince Priebus to stop helping Donald Trump win the White House, and instead focus its resources on protecting vulnerable Senate and House candidates.
A draft of the letter, obtained by various U.S. news organizations, warns that the Republican presidential candidate's "divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide."
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"Only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP [Grand Old Party] from drowning with a Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck," it warns.
The letter takes aim at Trump for recent controversies, including his public spat with the parents of a fallen U.S. soldier, his suggestion that gun owners should take action if Hillary Clinton is elected, exposing his "total ignorance of basic foreign policy" and his reported interest in the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.
Republican operative Andrew Weinstein says 70 Republicans have signed the letter so far, including five former members of Congress and 16 former RNC staffers.
The RNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump later said he wasn't worried Republicans would cut him off — and threatened to stop fundraising for the party if they do.
"All I have to do is stop funding the Republican Party," he said during an interview with Fox News.
Earlier this week, an open letter signed by 50 Republican security specialists warned with equally harsh language that Trump would be a "dangerous president."
Meeting in Orlando
The latest letter surfaced ahead of a planned meeting between Trump's team and RNC officials in Orlando on Friday. But both party officials and the campaign said the meeting was focused on campaign strategy in battleground states like Florida, and not on internal tensions. The officials weren't authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.
Early on Friday, Trump revisited another of his controversies when he said his recent, repeated claims that U.S. President Barack Obama founded the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were sarcastic.
Trump blamed CNN for reporting "so seriously" that he had said Obama and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton are the extremist group's founder and most valuable players.
He added, in all capital letters: "They don't get sarcasm?"
Only hours before, the billionaire businessman had restated the allegation with no mention of sarcasm, telling rally-goers in Kissimmee, Fla., that "I've been saying that Barack Obama is the founder." It's a claim that Trump repeated at least a dozen times in three cities since debuting the attack line Wednesday during a rally outside Fort Lauderdale.
In fact, Trump had refused to clarify that he was being rhetorical or sarcastic when asked about the remark during interviews. On Tuesday, after conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt tried to steer Trump toward explaining he really meant Obama's Mideast policies created conditions that ISIS exploited, Trump wanted none of it.
"No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS. I do," Trump said.
With files from CBC News