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Who is Michael Whatley, the Trump ally replacing Ronna McDaniel as RNC chair?

North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley speaks at the state party's convention in 2023.
North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley speaks at the state party's convention in 2023. (Meg Kinnard/AP)

The Republican National Committee (RNC) voted Friday to make Michael Whatley its new chair and Lara Trump, former President Donald Trump’s daughter-in-law, its new co-chair.

Whatley will replace outgoing chair Ronna McDaniel, who held the position for the last seven years, before she resigned after being at odds with Donald Trump and his campaign.

Whatley and Lara Trump were both endorsed by Donald Trump in February, after McDaniel announced she was stepping down. The former president said Whatley — who has publicly promoted Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election — is “committed to election integrity,” while he said his daughter-in-law is “dedicated to all that MAGA stands for.”

❓Who is Michael Whatley?

Whatley is a North Carolina native who has served as chairman of the North Carolina GOP since 2019. He has also served as the RNC’s general counsel since last year.

Whatley has decades of experience in GOP politics, having previously served as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, as chief of staff to former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and as a senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney and Trump-Pence campaigns.

He is a Trump ally and has publicly endorsed the former president’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Whatley told a local North Carolina radio show in November 2020 that “massive fraud” had taken place in Democratic cities like Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia. He also falsely claimed that Republican poll observers were prevented from accessing polling places.

After Whatley was announced as the new RNC chair on Friday, he doubled down on the issue of election integrity and said in his remarks that the RNC “will be focused like a laser on getting out the vote and protecting the ballot.”

Whatley later added, “If our voters don’t have confidence that our elections are safe and secure, nothing else matters. We will work relentlessly in every state to ensure that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

👩🏼‍💼Who is Lara Trump?

The wife of Trump’s middle son, Eric, is no stranger to politics, having actively campaigned for her father-in-law in his 2016 presidential campaign. During Trump’s 2020 presidential run, she served as a senior adviser for his campaign and rallied women voters.

Lara Trump has previously worked in the media as a producer for Inside Edition and as a contributor to Fox News.

In her new role as co-chair of the RNC, her major focus will be on fundraising efforts.

“We have one goal. The goal on November 5 is to win. And as my father-in-law says: Big League,” Lara Trump said during remarks on Friday. “We are going to make sure that every single penny of every dollar raised goes towards one goal, which is winning,” she added.

⏭️ What's next

Chris LaCivita, who is a top adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign, was also voted in Friday to serve as the functional head of the RNC. Now that the RNC has voted in Donald Trump’s handpicked leadership team, a big lingering question is whether the RNC will assume responsibility for Donald Trump’s mounting legal bills, which are now in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last month, Lara Trump created a stir when she said that Republicans have a “big interest” in paying her father-in-law’s legal bills and didn’t rule out using RNC funds.

LaCivita quelled those speculations, telling the Associated Press, “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.”

Trump’s legal bills are mostly being taken care of by Save America, Trump’s affiliated political action committee, the AP reports.