Home News Trump Ally and Daughter-in-Law Officially Take Over R.N.C. Leadership

Trump Ally and Daughter-in-Law Officially Take Over R.N.C. Leadership

Trump Ally and Daughter-in-Law Officially Take Over R.N.C. Leadership


The Republican National Committee on Friday selected new leaders who were handpicked by former President Donald J. Trump, a move expected to tighten the expected nominee’s hold on the party’s machinery ahead of the general election.

The committee unanimously elected Michael Whatley, who led the North Carolina Republican Party and was the R.N.C.’s general counsel, as its chair and Lara Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law, as co-chair.

Both Mr. Whatley and Ms. Trump were endorsed by Mr. Trump last month after Ronna McDaniel, the committee’s leader since 2017, privately told the former president she planned to leave the position. Ms. McDaniel was for months the focus of intense pressure from inside and outside the Trump campaign to step down over the committee’s lackluster fund-raising and criticism over Republicans’ performance in 2022.

Many of Mr. Trump’s allies also criticized Ms. McDaniel, whom Mr. Trump originally picked for the position, for being insufficiently supportive of the former president. They cited her neutrality during the Republican primary and her resistance to his push to call off a series of debates that he refused to participate in.

The new leaders will take the reins of the national party at a critical juncture for Mr. Trump’s campaign, and their elevation is part of his larger effort to effectively merge the R.N.C. with his campaign.

After Mr. Trump dominated the primaries on Super Tuesday, his last remaining rival, Nikki Haley, exited the Republican race, effectively handing him the party’s nomination. Mr. Trump is now focused on the general election, and his campaign is expected to begin raising money in concert with the party, allowing him to raise far larger sums and to tap into the existing party apparatus.

During Friday’s meeting, the R.N.C. voted to officially recognize him as the party’s presidential candidate, even though he has not yet locked up the delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

In a speech after his election, Mr. Whatley vowed that the committee would “be the vanguard of a movement that will work tirelessly every single day to elect our nominee, Donald J. Trump,” flip control of the Senate and expand Republicans’ slim majority in the House of Representatives.

Mr. Whatley also said his priorities as chair would be “getting out the vote and protecting the ballot.” He pledged to build on the committee’s efforts to recruit and deploy poll watchers, workers and judges to serve as “real-time monitors” as votes are being cast as well as counted.

Mr. Trump — who continues to make false claims about voter fraud as he faces criminal charges over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election — has told allies that he believes the R.N.C. needed to spend more money on “election integrity” efforts.

Mr. Whatley has backed Mr. Trump’s false election claims and has asserted, without basis, that Republican efforts in North Carolina prevented Democrats from cheating Mr. Trump out of victory there in 2020. In a statement, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee criticized Mr. Whatley as a “fringe election denier.”

On Friday, he said that the committee would “work relentlessly in every state to ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat.” Mr. Trump has frequently and falsely contended on the campaign trail that Democrats pervasively cheat during elections.

As evidence for this claim, Mr. Trump frequently rails against mail-in ballots and early voting, practices that Democrats are more likely to use. But in her parting message on Friday, Ms. McDaniel emphasized her belief that Republicans needed to encourage people to vote early and to take advantage of “ballot harvesting,” a practice that allows a third party to collect and deliver voters’ completed ballots, where it is legally allowed.

After winning her position as the committee’s No. 2 leader, Lara Trump also said the party needed to encourage supporters “to do things like early voting.”

Both she and Mr. Whatley made clear that raising money would be a major priority. The R.N.C. has historically low cash on hand, reporting $8.7 million at the end of January. Its Democratic counterpart reported having $24 million, nearly three times as much.

During her speech, Ms. Trump held up what she said was a $100,000 check made out to the committee that was handed to her that day as a result of the new leadership elections.

As part of the leadership overhaul, Chris LaCivita, one of Mr. Trump’s top campaign advisers, will be tapped to serve as the chief operating officer of the national committee. He is expected to manage its operations, strategy and spending while continuing to work with the Trump campaign.

One outstanding question is whether the R.N.C. will contribute to Mr. Trump’s ballooning legal bills as he faces four criminal indictments and two high-profile civil lawsuits. The party in 2021 paid for more than $1 million in legal fees after Mr. Trump left the presidency and was being investigated by officials in New York.

Mr. LaCivita told reporters last month in South Carolina that he did not anticipate the committee would pay Mr. Trump’s legal bills. But Ms. Trump, at a campaign event elsewhere in the state, signaled an openness to doing so, saying that Mr. Trump’s legal fees were a significant concern for Republican voters.

“I think that is of big interest to people,” she said. “Absolutely.”

One veteran R.N.C. member from Mississippi, Henry Barbour, drafted a resolution that would have stopped the committee from paying Mr. Trump’s legal fees. But the proposal would not have been binding, and it failed to draw enough co-sponsors to be put to a vote.


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