Trump suggests daughter-in-law and two others for RNC leadership
Former president Donald Trump said Monday night that he wants his daughter-in-law and one of his top aides to take prominent roles at the Republican National Committee as his team attempts to exert control over the party ahead of the November election.
In a statement, Trump backed Michael Whatley, the chair of the North Carolina GOP, as the new chairman of the party to replace Ronna McDaniel, a longtime ally he has recently soured on, according to people familiar with the discussions. But Trump also said he would support Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, as co-chair of the party and Chris LaCivita, a top aide, as the top operating officer.
“The RNC MUST be a good partner in the Presidential election. It must do the work we expect from the national Party and do it flawlessly,” Trump said in the statement. “That means helping to ensure fair and transparent elections across the country, getting out the vote everywhere — even in parts of the country where it won’t be easy — and working with my campaign, as the Republican presumptive nominee for President, to win this election and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The moves come amid Trump’s growing criticism of current RNC chair McDaniel, who is expected to leave her job after the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary amid Trump’s unhappiness over lagging fundraising and other problems. LaCivita has told others he wants to make widespread changes at the organization.
The 168 members of the Republican Party will have to vote on Whatley and Lara Trump, and LaCivita would have to be hired by the party’s leadership. But Trump’s endorsement makes the appointments likely to happen, longtime party observers say.
The plan for a Monday statement surprised some of the party’s officials, who have been negotiating a transition with Trump for weeks after he began telling others he wanted to push McDaniel out.
Trump decided to move up his announcement, planned for after the South Carolina primary, “because it had all sort of leaked out,” an adviser said. “It was just to rip the Band-Aid off and get it all over with.”
McDaniel has not officially said she was resigning. A meeting of the party to pick new leadership is expected to happen in March.
Installing a family member and a top aide would probably give Trump far more operational control over the RNC and how it spends large sums of money in the election. The party has paid millions of dollars of Trump’s legal bills before he became an official 2024 presidential candidate and could do so again.
Lara Trump — who is married to the former president’s son, Eric Trump — weighed a Senate run and has been heavily involved in the former president’s political efforts in recent years. The co-chair salary is set by the RNC’s budget committee but is usually around $250,000, a party official said.
LaCivita is a top aide on the campaign and has a long history in Republican politics.
McDaniel’s decision to leave came after she visited Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago Club a week ago.
McDaniel, who is in her fourth term as chair of the RNC, was expected to serve until 2025 but has considered leaving for months. Her relationship with Trump soured over the Republican primary debates featuring his challengers this past fall, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Trump wanted her to cancel them and she declined.
Trump and his allies were also unhappy with the lackluster fundraising record of the RNC, which had about half as much money as the Democratic National Committee at the end of December.
Betsy Ankeny, the campaign manager for Trump primary challenger Nikki Haley, said in a statement Monday night that “Trump just announced he is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
“Under Donald Trump and current RNC leadership, Republicans lost elections in 2018, 2020 and 2022, and now the RNC is effectively bankrupt,” Ankeny said. “Nikki Haley’s plan for the RNC? Blow it all up.”