The Republican National Committee is evolving into an extension of President Trump's attack squad.
In addition to the copious amount of political hits the RNC issues daily against Democrats and liberal policies, the committee's communications department has expanded its range of targets to include personal opponents of the president.
The Russia investigation, and even former FBI Director James Comey, has come under fire, in line with attacks from the White House. So has MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, who appears to have had a falling out with Trump after months of being one of his reliable cheerleaders.
It hasn't gone unnoticed by veteran Republican operatives and longtime observers of the national party.
"The RNC usually defends the president but Trump demands extra special attention," said one GOP communications professional, who like the more than a half-dozen Republican insiders interviewed for this story requested anonymity to avoid publicly criticizing the president or the RNC.
"This is especially true since the White House communications office is strapped due to the self-inflicted scandals and the demand that they go on offense," this Republican added.
The committee's hit on Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida who hosts MSNBC's marquee morning show, "Morning Joe," raised eyebrows in Washington when it dropped on Wednesday.
Republicans who work in the campaign trenches have no particular affinity for Scarborough, who has a personal relationship with Trump and was among his biggest boosters on cable television news during the 2016 GOP primary.
But some found it unseemly that the RNC was enlisted to attack a media figure because the president, a known consumer of cable news, has been unhappy with Scarborough's coverage. Ditto the RNC's missives to undermine the Russia investigation — and subtly, Comey's credibility, given his long career in public service.
"I see the e-mails from the [RNC] comms shop and can't help but cringe," a GOP strategist said. "It worries me that the party has abandoned its role as a support network for Republicans, Republican ideas and an issue agenda and instead has been reduced to merely contesting whatever Trump's gripe of the day is."
The RNC told the Washington Examiner that the role it is playing in defending the White House is no different than under past Republican presidents.
"The RNC's strategy has not changed, the only thing that has changed is Republicans control the White House," committee spokeswoman Lindsay Jancek said. "One of our roles in past Republican administrations — and the current one — is to support the president. That includes defending against unfair attacks from the media."
Trump, and therefore the RNC, is troubled by the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign that could implicate the president.
Trump has suggested that he fired Comey in part because he was unhappy with the pace of the probe, and most of the media coverage he has complained about has revolved around the Russia investigation, now in the hands of appointed special counsel Robert Mueller.
Not all Republican operatives are bothered by the RNC helping Trump in his fights against Comey and the media, with some insiders speculating that the committee might have had no choice because the White House communications shop is overwhelmed and needed assistance.
"I don't find it inappropriate for the RNC to point out things that seem unfair or over the top or one-sided," an elected committee member said.
Don Fowler was chairman of the Democratic National Committee in the mid-1990s, during the first couple of years of the special counsel-run Whitewater investigation into President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton.
He said the DNC during that time, and later as the probe expanded to include Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, remained focused on typical party business, leaving what was a very robust Democratic counterattack machine to the president's team inside the White House.
"We in the DNC — there was none of that in a vindictive, get back at them" action," Fowler said, by telephone from South Carolina. Trump's White House communications team has been overwhelmed, in part because of the president's undisciplined tweeting habit, which could explain why the RNC has joined the fray.
Since Trump fired Comey less than one month ago, the RNC has sent out a handful of press releases that either question the legitimacy of the Russia investigation, or highlight "criticism of dangerous leaks targeting President Trump," a particular complaint of the president's.
Another RNC press release featured comments of deputy White House press secretary Sarah Sanders criticizing Democrats for disapproving of Comey's firing because "in Washington, we finally had something that I think we should have all been able to agree on, and that was that Director Comey shouldn't have been at the FBI."
RNC veterans under President George W. Bush don't recall the committee being used to fight personal political battles.
But one GOP insider who served at RNC during that period said it could simply be a case of Bush not engaging with adversaries the way Trump does, and therefore the national party was never called on to bolster the White House in the way it has with Trump.
So the RNC's aggressive defense of Trump on matters more personal in nature, though unusual, is consistent with the committee's mission.
"What they asked for they typically got, because you're an extension of the political arm of the White House, so not uncommon to do the White House's bidding," this insider said.