US presidential hopeful Nikki Haley on Friday warned that Donald Trump was aiming to “get control” of the Republican National Committee, adding that she did not want to see him use the committee as a “piggy bank” for his court fees.

While speaking on CNN, Haley told anchor Kaitlan Collins she was concerned about Trump’s push for new leadership at the RNC after a court found the ex-US president liable for inflating his net worth and ordered him to pay nearly US$355 million.

The interest on the payments alone could add roughly US$100 million to that figure. And then there is the additional US$83.3 million a court ordered Trump to pay writer E. Jean Carroll in January after a jury found he had damaged her reputation.

Another court ordered Trump in a separate 2023 case to pay Carroll US$5 million after he was found liable for sexual abuse.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers remarks while introducing a new line of signature shoes at Sneaker Con at the Philadelphia Convention Centre on Saturday. Photo: AFP

“My biggest issue is I don’t want the RNC to become his legal defence fund. I don’t want the RNC to become his piggy bank for his personal court cases,” Haley said. “We’ve already seen him spend US$50 million worth of campaign contributions toward his personal court cases.”

“Now we see him trying to get control of the RNC so he can continue not to have to pay his own legal fees,” Haley continued. “The problem is that doesn’t help us win any seat in the House, in the Senate, or anything else if the RNC is all focused on his legal fees. The RNC is practically broke now as it is.”

Trump has thrown his support behind North Carolina Republican Party chair Michael Whatley to succeed current RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who is expected to leave after the February 24 South Carolina primary. The former president has also endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to serve as co-chair of the committee.

During the CNN interview, Haley railed against Trump’s increasingly visible involvement in RNC affairs.

Trump’s legal debts are more than US$500 million. Will he have to pay?

“He’s trying to control the RNC after the fact that he tried to get me out of the race so that he could be the presumptive nominee,” she said. “All of that is so that he has an arm to pay his legal fees. That’s the fear that every Republican should have.”

Before Trump entered the Republican primary, the RNC in 2021 and 2022 paid out roughly US$2 million to two law firms that were working on the former president’s cases.

Trump’s fundraising committees in 2023 spent about US$50 million on his legal expenses, according to campaign finance reports.