After 11-year-old tapes of Donald Trump referring to sexual assault and talking lewdly about women surfaced this Friday, a litany of Republican lawmakers have withdrawn their support for the party’s nominee. Now — only a few hours before the second Clinton-Trump debate — two key figures in Republican party politics are sending mixed signals about Trump’s standing with the GOP and within his own campaign.
According to NBC News, a source within the RNC said that chairman Reince Priebus has instructed party officials to “do what’s best” for themselves — implying permission to break the rank-and-file backing of the GOP standard bearer. (Sean Spicer, the RNC’s communications director and chief strategist, has denied that any such directive was given.)
This news comes after the Wall Street Journal reported that the RNC has already begun diverting funds from the Trump effort to down-ballot races. Despite widespread outrage from Republican voters and officials — which is rumored to extend to the lower half of the ticket — Trump has vowed to stay in the race.
In the days since the tapes surfaced, Trump has appeared via video statement and has been defended by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, one of his most fervent surrogates. And yet his third campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, has been conspicuously absent from the public eye. Normally a fixture on cable news, Conway cancelled her scheduled appearances on Sunday’s news programs. A campaign source suggested to NBC that Conway was considering leaving her post. Conway told NBC the rumor was “a crock.” Later on Sunday, she tweeted a picture of herself with the nominee en route to the St. Louis debate (and made sure to note that his wife took the photo).