Trump team moves behind the scenes to shift the GOP platform on abortion and marriage

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Donald Trump's allies are quietly getting involved in little-noticed fights over who will serve on the committee to set the Republican Party's national platform.

NBC News spoke with nine people familiar with what's happening in states across the country, including Arizona, South Carolina, Kansas and Iowa, among others, who said that the campaign's involvement is intended to stop those on the party's right flank from trying to push the official Republican National Committee platform too far to the right on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage headed into the general election.

A Trump campaign official acknowledged to NBC News that there are conversations throughout the party about culture war-infused policies and that they have been watching and engaged in some state-level races for spots on the RNC's Platform Committee, which is the body that will play a significant role in shaping platform changes.

The official also noted that it's not unusual for people most closely aligned with the president to get key convention roles.

“I know there are probably some people upset at us, but these positions are generally set aside for those who have been helpful to the president,” said the official. “That includes this kind of stuff.”

The current platform is a 66-page document that outlines the Republican National Committee’s position on dozens of issues, including abortion, marriage, police reform, the Federal Reserve, technology and the environment. The platform committee consists of one man and one woman from every U.S. state and territory.

Platform changes are generally made every four years to coincide with the presidential election. But in 2020, the RNC made no adjustments — the first time it skipped doing so in more than 150 years. That decision, officials said at the time, was made due to the complications of holding full meetings during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. It angered both social conservatives and more moderate Republicans, all of whom wanted changes.

Now, some of the platform fights that could have played out in 2020 are spilling over into the 2024 election cycle.

“They are definitely worried about who is getting on those committees,” said Shiree Verdone, who served as co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Arizona in 2016 and 2020. “Trying to get normal folks on the platform and Rules [committees], but God knows if there’s any normal people in that delegation.”

Verdone, who has previously served on RNC platform committees, is no longer directly involved with the Republican Party of Arizona. Arizona GOP Chairwoman Gina Swoboda did not return a request for comment.

At the grassroots level, this involvement amounts to the Trump team and its allies handpicking candidates they want to be on the platform committee, giving those individuals a leg up in the elections.

The committee's staff leadership, which were picked earlier this month, are firmly Trump supporters.

Randy Evans, Trump’s former ambassador to Luxembourg, will serve as executive director; Russ Vought, Trump's former director of the Office of Management and Budget, will serve as policy director; and Ed Martin, the head of the conservative groups Phyllis Schlafly Eagles and the Eagle Forum Education and Legal Defense Center, will serve as deputy policy director.

Most who were interviewed by NBC News said they backed what the campaign is doing because Trump is, after all, the party's presumptive nominee. But they also all acknowledged that it's not completely smooth; there are intraparty debates being waged over abortion and the definition of marriage ahead of July’s convention in Milwaukee.

There is a sense among some party leaders that Trump’s team wants to make sure that the people who make it onto the platform committee don't come up with a platform that could be viewed as too extreme in a general election on issues like the definition of marriage and abortion, with the latter having taken on defining political influence after the Supreme Court — helped by three conservative Trump picks — overturned Roe v. Wade.

“The campaign is really getting into it and involved this year in [platform committee] races in states,” a veteran Republican operative who has done work in the past for the RNC said. “There is a sense among them that the platform should not be pushed too far to the right on a few issues, but I keep hearing abortion and marriage specifically.”

“The insertion I am seeing is very odd,” said another longtime RNC member of the involvement of Trump’s allies in the selection of platform committee members. “It’s definitely out of the ordinary from past experiences; some are concerned that they only want to engage to change or control it.”

“I think obviously the [former] president will get what he wants, which is appropriate,” added the person, who has previously sat on the RNC’s Platform Committees. “But it’s currently a conversation within the party.”

The RNC’s current platform mentions “abortion” 35 times, including opposition to the use of federal funds to perform or promote abortions, and support for state’s abilities to ban abortion providers from federal programs like Medicaid.

“The Democratic Party is extreme on abortion,” reads the current platform. “Democrats' almost limitless support for abortion, and their strident opposition to even the most basic restrictions on abortion, put them dramatically out of step with the American people.”

As abortion has become a dominant electoral issue since the overturning of Roe in 2022, the issue has left Trump trying to balance pleasing social conservatives who have long pushed for strict federal abortion bans, and the fact that access to abortion remains popular with the broader electorate. An NBC News poll last year found that 60% of voters disapproved of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

In recent interviews, Trump has used a blanket comment to respond to abortion questions, saying that it should be up to individual states to determine abortion policy.

That answer often does not placate the more socially conservative factions of the party, including former Vice President Mike Pence, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who is considered by some to be on the shortlist to serve as Trump’s running mate in 2024.

“You don’t need a federal ban,” Trump told Time magazine during an April interview. “Roe v. Wade … wasn’t about abortion as much as bringing it back to the states. So the states should negotiate deals.”

Another RNC platform sticking point is over the definition of marriage. In the current document, it's defined as “between one man and one woman” and called “the cornerstone of the family is natural marriage, the union of one man and one woman.”

“It is just politically dumb,” said a Republican official vying to sit on the RNC’s Platform Committee who disagrees with any decision to moderate the party on social issues. “How do you go back on decades of life language? What, maybe you will impact like a half of one percent of voters, and freeze out many more.”

In 2019, the Trump administration launched a global campaign to stop the criminalization of homosexuality, an effort led by then-U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell. He became the first openly gay person appointed to a Cabinet-level position in 2020 when Trump made him Acting Director of National Intelligence.

Grenell spoke at the RNC convention in 2020, a year in which Trump also picked up the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans; the group did not endorse him in 2016. Melania Trump also held a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser for the group in April.

That group nor Grenell responded to requests seeking comment about whether they would like changes to the RNC’s platform.

Trump, however, has not been revered by LGBTQ rights groups outside the conservative political ecosystem.

The former president has said he will roll back government programs backing transgender rights and punish doctors who provide gender-affirming care to minors. He frequently mocks trans athletes and has gone after schools for pushing "transgender insanity."

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights group, for instance, is planning on spending $15 million in key swing states to back President Joe Biden, an spending campaign first reported by NBC News on Monday.

Trump has said that, if he returns to the White House, he will push back on government programs focused on trans rights, and has been critical of "left-wing gender insanity."

“This moment feels so important, not just for this election, but really what it means for the future of our community,” HRC President Kelley Robinson told NBC News. “We are seeing an incredible backlash in states across the country to the progress that we’ve made ... that’s led by an opposition that doesn’t want us to have the rights we have today.”

This article was originally published on