Donald Trump will define 2024 RNC platform, committee members say

Donald Trump will define 2024 RNC platform, committee members say
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(WASHINGTON) — The GOP’s first new platform since 2016 will also be the first truly defined by former President Donald Trump, Republicans who have served on the platform committee say.

In 2016, then-candidate Trump deferred to party operatives to craft the document, according to the platform veterans.

In 2020, the GOP declined to introduce a new platform, merely appending an updated introduction to the same platform from Trump’s first campaign. Now, several veterans of the platform committee predict that the document to be unveiled at the RNC convention in two weeks will reflect a Republican Party united behind the person and policies of Donald Trump.

“I think the dynamic between then and now is totally different,” said Tom Schreibel, the Wisconsin Republican Party national committeeman and a platform subcommittee chair in 2016.

“The campaign didn’t carry as much sway back then,” said Schreibel, who serves on the Committee on Arrangements for the 2024 convention, which will take place in his home-state capital of Milwaukee. “We spent weeks working with House and Senate staff to get their insights on what was happening currently.”

“What were the sensitivities of the House? What were the sensitivities of the Senate? Where were the conferences at at that point? And what was the art of the possible?” said Schreibel, recalling the considerations he had weighed.

James Bopp Jr., an Indiana lawyer who served on every platform committee from 2000 through 2016, called the process that produced the former president’s first platform “quite unusual.”

“The Trump campaign took the explicit and well-circulated position that they were going to be very light-handed in terms of fashioning the 2016 platform,” said Bopp, “and leave it to the platform committee and the delegates to do that.”

While that platform certainly bore Trump’s mark, it also contained positions out of step with the former president. On LGBTQ+ issues, it veered to Trump’s right, affirming a definition of marriage as strictly a union between a man and a woman, something fought for by religious conservatives. And at the convention, then-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort successfully pushed to dilute the platform’s support for Ukraine — a change Trump later said he was neither involved in nor aware of.

This year, Trump may not be able to say the same.

“I expect this to be Trump’s platform,” said Jesse Law, a 2016 platform committee member reprising his role this year. “I expect the members of the committees to fall in line.”

Schreibel concurred, saying, “Trump has gained control of the Republican Party, being the former president.”

Schreibel, Law, and Bopp each made a version of the same point, though: This platform won’t be Trump’s because Trump has commandeered the platform process — this platform will be Trump’s because Trump has united the party behind him.

“If you have 50 states, and we’re averaging 70% of every state party, every county party being pro-Trump in such a way, you’re going to see this in the makeup of those who are delegates,” said Law, who serves as chairman of the Republican Party in Clark County, Nevada.

Law contrasted this dynamic with the 2016 convention, where “you had the Bible Belt, and you had the northeastern folks, and you had the Midwest folks, and you had the West Coast folks.”

“We didn’t have a lot of cohesion,” he added.

To Law’s point, RNC platform committee membership lists reviewed by ABC News show that only 12 members of the 2024 committee also served on the committee in 2016 — less than 15% of the total. While an ABC News analysis finds that this figure is consistent with the churn from 2012 to 2016, it shows that the 2024 platform will be shaped by a new generation of party leadership.

The three leaders of the 2024 platform committee — who work with policy staff weeks before the convention to decide the drafts on which the broader committee will then deliberate — also come from Trump’s orbit.

Two — Randy Evans and Russ Vought — served in the Trump administration, as ambassador to Luxembourg and Office of Management and Budget director, respectively. The third platform leader, Ed Martin, did not have a role in the Trump administration, but he marched to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and has become a prominent figure in the “Stop the Steal” movement advancing the false theory that Trump won the 2020 election.

Schreibel pointed to a similar dynamic in the congressional considerations that influence the platform, noting that “issues within the House and Senate on X, Y or Z are turned by President Trump and his ideals.”

And, said Schreibel, because Trump was relatively new to politics in 2016, he had less familiarity with the process, causing him to have “a lot of people at the table” working on plans for transition and the administration.

One area where Trump’s influence over the party platform may make all the difference is on the polarizing issue of abortion rights.

Since the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in 2022, ruling that there is no constitutional right to abortion, nearly two dozen states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion. This tide of state-level restrictions has become politically toxic for national Republicans, as Democrats have made it a signature campaign theme, attacking the GOP as extreme on the issue.

As recently as a year ago, Trump — who appointed the conservative justices that enabled the overturning of Roe — eagerly took credit for the decision, writing in a post on Truth social, “I was able to kill Roe v. Wade.” More recently, however, the former president has adopted a more muted tone, saying that he wouldn’t sign a national abortion ban and emphasizing his support for leaving the issue to the states.

Trump’s circumspection — along with the news that the 2024 platform will be much shorter than usual — has fueled speculation that the document might only briefly discuss the issue, drawing criticism from some anti-abortion rights groups. The New York Times has reported that a coalition of advocacy groups sent a letter to Trump, asking he “make clear that you do not intend to weaken the pro-life plank.”

But the platform committee veterans who spoke with ABC News were largely unconcerned.

Bopp, who told ABC News he had played an instrumental role in advocating for anti-abortion rights provisions in the platform since 1980, said of Trump’s abortion stance, “I fully embrace it, 100%. I think he’s absolutely right that the focus should be on the states.”

“There is no votes for any national, substantive law on abortion,” said Bopp. “We should not be — nor have I ever been — confused with Don Quixote.”

For Law, Trump’s line on abortion in the first presidential debate augured the approach the platform would take: “He was very concise with his comments the other day. That’s what I would expect.”

“The majority of the Republican base agrees with that,” Law added.

During his debate with President Joe Biden, Trump said he would not block access to the mifepristone abortion pill and stressed that the states should decide the extent of abortion rights, with exceptions for rape, incest, and danger to the life of the mother.

As much as the 2024 platform may bespeak a party remade in Trump’s image, the platform committee veterans interviewed by ABC News stressed that it will remain, at least in part, a document that responds to the needs of the party as a whole.

“This is a document that is worked on and thought about quite a bit by many members. Ensuring that all the parts of the Republican Party are heard and that we hear from the leadership — the elected leadership of the party — is important,” said Arkansas Lt. Gov. Leslie Rutledge, who chaired a platform subcommittee in 2016. “It will be reflective of the Republican Party as a whole.”

“President Trump is in charge of the Republican Party, and so he’s going to have a bigger voice in what is said,” echoed Schreibel. “But still, at the end of the day, that document’s gonna have to represent House members and also Senate members.”

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