Priebus assures RNC support for Trump despite lawmaker defections

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus reportedly has told party members the RNC maintains a “great relationship” with Donald Trump, in the wake of dozens of GOP lawmakers abandoning their presidential nominee -- though the RNC has yet to publicly announce its full-fledged support.

The discussions follow the release Friday of a 2005 audiotape in which Trump could be heard bragging about having enough star power to kiss and grope women without consent.

Within hours, Republican congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were denouncing the lewd comments. Ryan then took the unprecedented step Monday of saying he would no longer defend or campaign with Trump, which resulted in a backlash from some Trump-supporting lawmakers.

Preibus, though, assured the RNC’s roughly 160 members about continued Trump support in a separate weekend conference call, according to several news reports.

Priebus reportedly told members that “nothing has changed.”

"I want to make it very clear that the RNC is in full coordination with the Trump campaign and we have a great relationship with them," Priebus said in the call, according to NBC News, which says it has an audiotape of the call.

A source told on Tuesday that the RNC does not intend to publicly announce related plans.

On Monday, a group of Trump supporters staged a protest outside the RNC’s headquarters on Capitol Hill, which resulted in the firing of the chairman of Trump’s Virginia campaign, Corey Stewart.

Trump was silent on the issue Monday on the campaign trail. But on Tuesday he attacked Ryan and suggested the he has become unburdened by the split with at least some of the GOP establishment.

“Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to,” he said in another.

Roughly two dozen GOP senators and House members have followed Ryan in abandoning Trump, which has resulted in scorn from several outspoken members.

“We need to get on board. It’s all in or nothing,” Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox News on Tuesday.

He also said 11 House members have defected.