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Trump endorses Michael Whatley as RNC’s next chairman and daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair

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WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump has endorsed North Carolina Republican Party chairman Michael Whatley to succeed Ronna McDaniel as the Republican National Committee’s next leader, according to a statement released Monday.

Whatley previously served as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, an adviser on the Trump-Pence campaign and has backed Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. He also pushed to censure former Sen. Richard Burr after Burr voted to convict Trump for his alleged role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Whatley currently serves as the RNC’s general counsel.

The endorsement of Whatley comes as Trump allies have criticized McDaniel for not being supportive of the former president as he seeks the Republican nomination in the 2024 race. The New York Times reported that McDaniel told Trump she plans to step down from her post after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24.

However, Republican National Committee spokesperson Keith Schipper told USA TODAY that nothing has changed and that McDaniel’s plans will be decided after the primary.

Along with Whatley, Trump said in a statement that Lara Trump, his daughter-in-law, has agreed to run as the Republican National Committee’s co-chair. In addition, Trump is tapping Chris LaCivita, his senior advisor, to assume the role of chief operating officer of the committee.

“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 committee would need to vote on Lara Trump and Whatley for them to officially assume their roles. LaCivita would have to be hired by the party’s leadership, according to the Washington Post.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in response to Trump’s plans that Haley’s plan is to fire everyone at the Republican National Committee.

“Nikki Haley’s plan for the RNC? Blow it all up. Everyone at the RNC will be fired, there will be a full and complete audit of the gross misuse of funds, and there will be a formal application process to become RNC chair based on MERIT, not on back scratching. The days of overpaid consultants getting rich off of the RNC while losing elections will be over, and Republicans will finally get back to WINNING,” Ankney said in a statement. 

At a campaign stop in Bamberg, South Carolina, Haley reacted to Trump’s attempted RNC takeover. “Is that how you’re going to try and take an election?” she said.

Contributing: David Jackson, Francesca Chambers

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