RNC elects Michael Whatley, Lara Trump as new leaders

RNC elects Michael Whatley, Lara Trump as new leaders

The Republican National Committee (RNC) on Friday officially voted to make Michael Whatley and Lara Trump its new chair and co-chair, respectively, cementing former President Trump’s remaking of RNC leadership as he sets his sights on November.

RNC officials gathered in Houston for the group’s leadership meetings, where they agreed to replace outgoing chair Ronna McDaniel, who resigned amid discord with Trump during the primary process.

Speaking to RNC members, Whatley vowed that the organization “will be focused like a laser on getting out the vote and protecting the ballot.”

“In less than eight months, we are going to determine the fate of not only the United States but of the entire world,” he said. “And this body, the RNC, is going to be the vanguard of a movement that will work tirelessly, every single day to elect our nominee Donald J. Trump as the 47th president of the United States, flip the Senate, expand our majority in the House of Representatives.”

Whatley, who has served as chair of the North Carolina GOP and RNC general counsel, is a Trump loyalist who has echoed the former president’s rhetoric about “election integrity” in the wake of the 2020 election, which Trump has falsely claimed was fraudulent and stolen.

In a 2021 appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference panel on “protecting elections,” Whatley spoke at length about his efforts to recruit hundreds of attorneys and volunteer poll watchers in North Carolina. He has also spoken skeptically about mail-in and absentee voting unless they are paired with voter ID requirements.

Trump would likely exert pressure on the RNC to pursue legal challenges if November’s election doesn’t go his way, just as he did in 2020.

Lara Trump will serve as co-chair and will have a major focus on fundraising. The RNC has lagged far behind Democrats in bringing in cash over the past year, a setback heading into what will be a lengthy and bruising general election campaign.

Speaking to RNC committee members on Friday, Lara said the RNC had already received a check for $100,000 and pointed to the importance of fundraising and encouraging early voting, something that the GOP has at times struggled to rally around.

“We’ve got to play the game a little bit differently. We have to encourage people to do things like early voting,” she said.

The ex-president’s daughter-in-law told Newsmax last month she would spend “every single penny” to ensure Trump’s election.

Trump has coasted through the GOP primary, winning all but two contests through Super Tuesday. He is expected to cross the delegate threshold this month to make him the presumptive nominee, formally setting up a rematch against President Biden.

It is typical for a candidate to merge with the party apparatus once they are the presumptive nominee, and Trump’s campaign and the RNC will be able to jointly fundraise and share data and other resources once he has the requisite number of delegates.

A major question moving forward is whether the party will pay Trump’s legal bills. The former president is facing 91 felony charges across four investigations, and he recently was ordered by a New York judge to pay $355 million in a civil fraud case.

Trump’s campaign has spent millions of dollars on legal fees over the past year, leaving his operation at a significant cash disadvantage compared to President Biden’s campaign.

Chris LaCivita, a top Trump campaign adviser who is moving over to the RNC to oversee day-to-day operations, dismissed the idea that the party would foot the bill for his legal costs, though it has done so in the past.

“The fact of the matter is not a penny of the RNC’s money or, for that matter, the campaign’s money has gone or will go to pay legal fees,” LaCivita told The Associated Press.

Some RNC members have expressed reservations about the possibility of the party covering Trump’s legal costs. Mississippi committeeman Henry Barbour proposed a non-binding resolution stating RNC funds could not be used for Trump’s legal bills, but it failed to garner enough support.

Updated: 12:43 p.m. ET

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