When Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel formed an RNC Advisory Council to help guide the GOP’s 2024 campaign strategy, no one envisioned it would become a flashpoint between freshman Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), Donald Trump, and the right-wing news site Breitbart.
And yet, miraculously, more than eight months into Britt’s tenure on this new RNC board, her position on the council—and refusal to endorse Trump because she’s on the board—has become a real headache.
In recent weeks, according to a source familiar with the matter, Breitbart noticed that Britt was the only member of the Alabama congressional delegation that hadn’t endorsed Trump. So when the news site approached the senator’s team asking about her endorsement, it left Britt in a “pickle,” as another source put it to The Daily Beast.
According to three sources familiar with the situation, Britt was supposed to remain neutral in the GOP primary.
“When Ronna approached Senator Britt about joining the council, she asked Senator Britt to remain neutral in the primaries while the council conducts its work,” a source close to Britt told The Daily Beast.
That could be true. But it also could be a story. As Breitbart has noticed, other members on the RNC council have endorsed.
Among the ranks of this RNC advisory council—which has met only a handful of times—were Reps. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) and John James (R-MI). Both Gimenez and James have endorsed Trump. So when Britt argued to Breitbart that she couldn’t endorse Trump because she was on the council, it seemed to ring hollow.
Enter Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk.
“There’s no legitimate excuse for Sen. Katie Britt to be the only federal elected official from Alabama not endorsing Donald Trump, especially when he went to bat for her in the primary and especially when Trump, the rule of law, and our entire country are under assault,” Kirk wrote on Twitter in early August.
And with Breitbart pressing the matter, Britt’s explanation has seemed to lose credibility—so much so that the far-right news site has pressured the RNC into seemingly a new stance.
“When we launched the Republican Party Advisory Council to help us chart the best path forward to win in 2024, we asked members to remain neutral in the Republican presidential primary,” RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper told The Daily Beast. “Now that we’re in the advanced stages of the race, all members of the council are welcome to continue their work regardless of whether they are backing a Republican presidential candidate or not, to help us make Joe Biden a one-term president.”
Here is where the backstory really gets interesting. According to a source familiar with the matter, the RNC has only changed its position on members endorsing Trump because Breitbart started asking about the policy. Essentially, the GOP committee wanted to avoid fire for potentially blocking Republicans from endorsing Trump, even though that’s precisely what Britt’s aides are claiming the RNC was unofficially demanding of members of this new council.
The situation has a certain damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t ring to it. Either Britt has been avoiding a Trump endorsement because she’s not supposed to back the former president prematurely, or she’s playing her political cards like a skilled operator.
The situation is reminiscent to then-Speaker Paul Ryan’s delayed endorsement of Trump in 2016, with Ryan noting that he technically presides over the GOP convention and therefore felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to endorse Trump prematurely. The excuse lasted about a month.
The RNC supposedly didn’t want members of this council to endorse Trump too early, but the organization is also fine with members now endorsing Trump a year out from the convention. (Breitbart, the right-wing news site that first started asking about Britt’s endorsement, is expected to come out with a story about the endorsement brouhaha later this week.)
The reality may be far more complicated. An RNC source suggested to The Daily Beast that Britt’s explanation as to why she couldn’t endorse Trump—namely, her presence on this council—was entirely concocted.
“The Britt people send us out there to defend this lie, and nobody seems to realize that we’re dealing with rabid dogs at Breitbart,” a senior RNC source told The Daily Beast. “They don’t give a shit. They’re not just going to accept her off-the-record explanation, and they start demanding all kinds of statements about us preventing people from endorsing Trump and threatening to kick Trump supporters off this Council.”
“At some point, it’s like, we’re not about to have Trump sending Truths about us,” this source added, referring to the former president’s new social site. “Fuck that.”
After Breitbart began inquiring about Britt’s endorsements, an unlikely ally took to the phones to support the young Alabama senator: Steve Bannon.
The longtime Breitbart executive turned Trump administration official has been defending Britt, according to a previously mentioned source.
“Bannon supposedly called all over the place trying to get them to stand down, but it didn’t seem to work because the Britt people were still freaking out about Breitbart blowing them up,” this source said. “But, like, what bizarre world are we living in when Steve Bannon and the RNC are joined at the hip to defend a McConnell acolyte?”
Bannon nonetheless defended Britt in a statement to The Daily Beast.
“Katie Britt is politically savvy and a fighter for the America First agenda,” Bannon said Wednesday in a statement. “I think it’s crucial—given her unique perspective, profile, and platform—that her endorsement is rolled out when it will make the biggest impact to defeat Joe Biden.”
As for Trump, he’s been in touch with Britt—but he remains somewhat indifferent on the topic of an endorsement.
“This is a lot of heartburn to get to an endorsement,” a source close to Trump told The Daily Beast.
Another source close to Trump stressed they have great respect for Britt but think an endorsement now would be more helpful than waiting, possibly months, for her backing.
“I am looking forward to helping Trump win suburban women,” one previously mentioned source close to Britt told The Daily Beast as to what the senator has been sharing with allies in recent weeks.
There isn’t widespread agreement in Trumpworld about when Britt should endorse Trump—a twice-impeached, four-times-indicted former president.
Some Republican operatives believe Britt could have more impact by waiting to endorse Trump, while others think she’s long overdue.
“Not all endorsements are equal; some carry more weight. As the only Republican female senator with school-aged children, Senator Britt is the future of our Party,” a senior GOP operative told The Daily Beast. “Her ability to connect suburban swing voters with America First policies is unique and makes the timing of her endorsement an important strategic decision as we work to make sure Joe Biden is a one-term President.”
A spokesperson for Britt said the senator “appreciated” Trump’s “well wishes and kind words” during a recent call with Trump, following a health scare that resulted in facial numbness.
“While she continues to rest and recover at home,” spokesperson Sean Ross said, the senator’s husband and parents were “excited to be there in Montgomery to welcome President Trump back to Alabama for his record-shattering, standing-room-only speech.”
Meanwhile, those inside Trump’s orbit are hoping a Britt endorsement comes sooner rather than later—though they also don’t think Breitbart’s inquiries are helpful.
“All of this started with a lie, then got blown up by a psychotic Charlie Kirk tweet, and ended in a U.S. senator panicking,” said another previously mentioned source familiar with the drama. “Whatever, that’s fine. And Britt doesn’t have to run for re-election until 2028 anyway, so she’s confident she’ll be fine regardless. But all I know is that the RNC isn’t getting the blame for this shit show, and none of this is worth having Breitbart trying to torpedo us all.”
Britt’s pro-Trump critics—and Trump himself— have long taken issue with her close relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as well as Britt’s status as a former top staffer for longtime McConnell ally Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).
During her primary race this past election cycle, Britt took early arrows from Trump, only for the former president to later endorse her against MAGA Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL).
“For Mitch McConnell to be wasting money on her campaign is absolutely outrageous,” Trump said of Britt’s run, prior to later offering the now-senator an endorsement.
Now, it seems like it’s only a matter of time until Britt pays back the favor.