Donald Trump endorsed his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to help lead the Republican National Committee, a move that would tighten his hold on the party even as the 2024 nominating contest continues.
Trump, in an announcement by his campaign on Monday night, proposed that Lara Trump, a former television producer who is married to his son, Eric, become co-chair along with Michael Whatley, the RNC’s general counsel. The current chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, has been in discussions to step down, according to people familiar with the plans.
“My very talented daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, has agreed to run as the RNC Co-Chair. Lara is an extremely talented communicator and is dedicated to all that MAGA stands for,” Trump said in the statement.
He described Whatley as someone “who has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina, and is committed to election integrity, which we must have to keep fraud out of our election so it can’t be stolen.”
Whatley has supported Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 presidential election.
Trump added that he had also asked Chris LaCivita, to “in effect” assume the role of RNC chief operating officer, managing the committee’s “day-to-day operations so it will become a fighting machine for 2024.”
Endorsing his daughter-in-law for RNC chair after applying public pressure on McDaniel to step down would all but complete Trump’s control the Republican campaign apparatus. Both Lara Trump and Whatley are North Carolina natives. Democrats consider the state as a possible battleground in the November presidential election.
McDaniel, according to a person familiar with the matter, has told Trump that she would vacate her position following the Feb. 24 South Carolina Republican primary, where he intends to deliver the state’s ex-governor Nikki Haley an embarrassing defeat. Polls show that he leads Haley, his former United Nations ambassador, by an average of 31 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics.
Haley’s campaign manager, Betsy Ankney, said in a statement that “under Donald Trump and current RNC leadership, Republicans lost elections in 2018, 2020, and 2022, and now the RNC is effectively bankrupt.”
She added that under Haley’s plan for the organization the entire staff would be dismissed, an audit would be undertaken and “there will be a formal application process to become RNC chair based on merit, not on back scratching.”
McDaniel, who has held the RNC’s top slot since 2017, has come under criticism over the party’s underwhelming electoral showings in recent national contests as well as lackluster fundraising numbers.
The RNC raised $87 million in 2023 and ended the year with $8 million cash on hand. That was far less than the Democratic National Committee, which had $20 million in the bank after raising $120 million. Overall, the DNC, President Joe Biden’s campaign and other committees supporting his reelection have amassed a $117 million war chest. Trump’s campaign ended the year with $33 million.