WASHINGTON — The simmering disagreement between Donald Trump and the RNC over delegate and convention rules boiled over in a remarkable clash between the party’s chairman and the candidate who is its front-runner.
Trump called out RNC Chairman Reince Priebus by name, said the party’s rules are “stacked against me,” and accused the RNC of conspiring against him.
“Give us all a break,” shot back Reince Priebus, the chairman of the party, who tweeted that Trump’s campaign should have known the rules.
The relationship between Trump and Priebus has been tenuous almost since Trump announced his campaign. There have been periods of disagreement and détente.
But Trump’s pointed comments about Priebus on Tuesday to The Hill newspaper and about the RNC rules at a CNN town hall — combined with the retort by Priebus on social media — suggest a new chapter in the GOP front-runner’s relationship with his party.
“It’s a disgrace for the party. And Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself,” Trump told the Hill.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, has used these rules to outmaneuver the real estate mogul in Colorado and Louisiana.
“He should be ashamed of himself because he knows what’s going on,” Trump added.
Trump later told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he suspects the party doesn’t want him to win the nomination and is conspiring against him.
Priebus swiftly responded to Trump’s claims.
“Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It’s the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break,” Priebus tweeted, without naming Trump.
The relationship between the two men appeared to be improving less than two weeks ago after Priebus and Trump met in Washington. Priebus said Trump’s disparaging comments about the RNC strained relations with donors and activists.
Trump tweeted praise about their conversation.
“Just had a very nice meeting with @Reince Priebus and the @GOP. Looking forward to bringing the Party together — and it will happen!” Trump tweeted.
Days before the Priebus Washington meeting, Trump — as well as his two other primary rivals John Kasich and Ted Cruz — backed off a pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
Trump, who backed off that promise during a CNN town hall on March 30, has intermittently stood by that pledge since he launched his campaign last summer.
After a March 4 debate where Trump said “I guarantee you there’s no problem” with the size of his penis and dismissed Rubio as “Little Marco” and Cruz as “Lying Ted,” Priebus blasted the event’s “tone and rhetoric.”
“I think the tone should improve. And I would hope that at the next debate, things are improved over the last debate as far as tone and rhetoric,” Priebus said at the time on ABC’s “This Week.”
While Trump has repeatedly suggested that the RNC has not been supportive of him, Priebus has said that leaders will ultimately back whoever the nominee is — even if it is Trump.
“I think it’s pretty clear we’re going to embrace whoever the nominee is. I embrace all of these candidates,” he said on CNN in February. “Whoever the nominee ends up becoming they’re going to join the biggest RNC operation we’ve put together.”