Donald Trump wants new RNC leadership, daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair

During McDaniel’s tenure, Trump was defeated in 2020, and the party turned in a weaker-than-expected performance in the 2022 midterm elections.

Eric Trump and his wife, Lara Trump. Photo: AFP

“I think my friend Michael Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader. Michael has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina,” Trump said in a statement.

“My very talented daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has agreed to run as the RNC Co-Chair … She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT.”

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As part of the reshuffling, Trump said Chris LaCivita, a co-manager of his campaign, would serve as the RNC’s chief operating officer. LaCivita is a veteran political operative who worked at the RNC during the 2016 race, helping thwart a challenge to Trump’s nomination on the convention floor.

Sources had told Reuters last week that McDaniel was looking to step down after the South Carolina primary on February 24, which Trump is expected to win with opinion polls putting him far ahead of his sole challenger, Nikki Haley, in the state.

McDaniel will continue working hard to beat Biden this fall, an RNC spokesperson said on Monday after Trump’s statement, adding: “Nothing has changed, and there will be no decision or announcement about future plans until after South Carolina”.

Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from Iowa, said he expected Trump’s endorsed leadership slate to be approved by a majority of the body’s 168 members, who are responsible for formally selecting the party chair.

“If he’s going to be the presumptive nominee and is going to have a tough race he needs a team in place sooner rather than later,” Scheffler told Reuters. “I suspect there won’t be any opposition to this.”

In his statement Trump said he expected the RNC, which plays a vital role in marshalling resources and turning out voters, would also work to “ensure fair and transparent elections” – a veiled nod to his false claims that he lost in 2020 due to fraud.

Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and general counsel for the Republican National Committee. Photo: Bloomberg

Whatley had backed those claims, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) noted in a statement blasting Trump’s pick.

“Whatley already threatened our democracy once before when he spread lies about the results of the 2020 election,” said DNC Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd. “Trump is rewarding him in just the latest display that democracy will be on the ballot this November.”

Lara Trump has been one of her father-in-law’s strongest supporters. She is a fixture on conservative news shows and flirted with a run for a US Senate seat in North Carolina in 2022.

While Whatley and LaCivita have proven track records with raising funds and the nuts and bolts of winning campaigns, Lara Trump “raises some red flags in the nepotism column,” said Jeanette Hoffman, a Republican political consultant.

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Hoffman noted, however, that Trump had worked closely with his daughter Ivanka and other family members during his term in the White House. “So this is nothing new for the Trump world. His family are among his closest advisers.”

One of the most important tasks will be to reverse the RNC’s deteriorating finances. Clinching the nomination would pave the way for Trump’s campaign and the RNC to launch a joint fundraising committee and raise money from big donors.

“If new people go in and get a handle on the expenses and win the confidence of major donors it would be very helpful for the campaign,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who worked on US Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign.

In a statement, Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, criticised Trump’s proposed leadership changes as akin to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”.

She described the RNC as “effectively bankrupt” and said Haley, if elected, would fire everyone at the organisation and conduct an audit of its finances.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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