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Trump endorses new RNC chair, announces daughter-in-law’s run for vice chair

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Former President Donald Trump, on Monday, announced his recommendations for changes within the Republican National Committee, proposing leadership positions for North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley, daughter-in-law Lara Trump and campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita.

As he moves closer to locking up the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Trump has increasingly been pushing to exert control and install loyalists at the national party committee. And last week, Trump recommended Whatley replace longtime RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel after this month’s South Carolina Republican presidential primary.

A source familiar with the change told Fox News Digital at the time that Trump was pushing for Whatley to replace McDaniel because he was “so powerful on election fraud” in 2020.

On Monday, Trump officially announced that he believes Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader.

TRUMP RECOMMENDS NORTH CAROLINA GOP CHAIR WHATLEY TO REPLACE MCDANIEL AT RNC: SOURCE

“Michael 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,” Trump said.

Whatley was a strong supporter of Trump’s unproven claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to massive voter fraud.

The rival Democratic National Committee reacted to the news with an email statement titled “Donald Trump Endorses Extreme Election Denier To Lead the RNC.”

Whatley has served as the North Carolina GOP chair since 2019. Whatley also serves as the general counsel for the Republican National Committee. 

Prior to his work with the Republican Party, Whatley served as a federal law clerk, a senior official in the President George W. Bush administration and as the chief of staff for former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. Whatley also served as a senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaign, Florida Recount and Transition Teams, as well as the Trump-Pence campaign and transition teams. 

Along with looking to get Whatley into the top leadership position in the committee, Trump announced plans for his daughter-in-law Lara Trump to run as co-chair of the RNC.

RNC CHAIR RONNA MCDANIEL TO STEP DOWN AFTER SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARIES: REPORT

“Lara is an extremely talented communicator and is dedicated to all that MAGA stands for,” the former president said. “She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT!”

The third position Trump hopes to have influence on within the committee is chief operating officer. He’d like to see veteran Republican strategist Chris LaCivita, who’s a top adviser in Trump’s 2024 campaign, in that role.

“Chris will manage the RNC’s day-to-day operations, so it will become a fighting machine for 2024 and use all the tools available to win for the American people,” Trump said.

If LaCivita ends up at the RNC, it would be his second tour of duty. He served as a senior RNC adviser during the summer and fall of 2016, during Trump’s election to the White House.

TRUMP MEETS WITH RONNA MCDANIEL – THEN CALLS FOR CHANGES AT REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE

The former president also said the three individuals are “highly talented, battle-tested, and smart,” adding they have his “complete and total endorsement” to lead the RNC.

As Trump seeks to win back his old job in the White House, he stated on Monday how crucial it was for the RNC to be a good partner during the election.

“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,” he exclaimed.

FIRST ON FOX: RNC REBOUNDS WITH STRONG FUNDRAISING MONTH

Trump recently met with McDaniel at his Mar-a-Lago club  in Palm Beach, Florida, and after the meeting, he posted on his Truth Social platform that McDaniel was a “friend” but that he would be urging changes at the RNC after the South Carolina presidential primary.

The former president pointed to McDaniel’s previous tenure as chair of the Michigan GOP.

“I think she did OK, initially, in the RNC. I would say right now, there’ll probably be some changes made,” he added.

McDaniel was nominated as RNC chair by Trump soon after his presidential election victory in 2016, and she won re-election in 2019, 2021, and January of last year. 

While she ended up easily winning her last re-election, she faced a vocal faction of far-right detractors who viewed her as too close to the party’s establishment wing.

She’s also come under plenty of criticism in recent months over the RNC’s finances.

Alarms are ringing over the party’s fundraising heading into the general election. The RNC ended 2023 with just $8 million in cash on hand, less than half as much as the Democratic National Committee. 

But as Fox News Digital was first to report, the RNC did haul in $12 million in January, its best monthly fundraising haul in the 2024 election cycle.

And Trump, who is the commanding front-runner for the Republican nomination as he bids for the White House a third straight time, was angry at McDaniel and the RNC in recent months for holding GOP presidential primary debates, which he skipped.

RNC spokesman Keith Schipper, in a statement to Fox News on Monday night, said that “Chairwoman McDaniel has been on the road helping elect Republicans up and down the ballot and she will continue working hard to beat Biden this fall. Nothing has changed, and there will be no decision or announcement about future plans until after South Carolina.”

When she won re-election last year, McDaniel said in an interview with Fox News that it would be her last two-year term steering the national party committee.

If McDaniel does resign, her replacement would need approval from a majority of the 168 RNC committee members.

McDaniel addressed the speculation last week in a letter to RNC members, reassuring them that she was still hard at work as RNC chairwoman, “building a machine that will elect Republicans up and down the ballot in November.” 

But an RNC committee member who asked to remain anonymous told Fox News Digital. “If Trump continues to win primaries, most of the 168 will follow his lead whether he picks Whatley or someone else.  Maybe he’ll face heavy opposition from outside the committee, but not from within it.”

South Carolina’s Feb. 24 primary is the next major contest in the GOP presidential nominating calendar, and polls suggest that Trump holds a large double-digit lead in the primary over his last remaining major rival – former South Carolina governor and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

“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,” Haley presidential campaign manager Betsy Ankney said in a statement. “Nikki Haley’s plan for the RNC? Blow it all up.”

Fox News’ Brooke Singman  contributed to this report.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

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