WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Michael Whatley to be the next head of the Republican National Committee and backed his daughter-in-law Lara Trump for co-chair.
Trump had indicated that it was time for RNC chair Ronna McDaniel to step aside, but he has also said he would make recommendations about changes at the RNC after the South Carolina primary, on Feb. 24.
“I think my friend Michael Whatley should be the RNC’s next leader,” Trump said in a statement, adding that he “has been with me from the beginning, has done a great job in his home state of North Carolina.”
Whatley is the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party.
Trump also said his daughter-in-law Lara Trump “has agreed to run as the RNC co-chair.” Lara Trump, who is married to Eric Trump, was a senior adviser to the Trump campaign in 2020. She often appears as an on-air surrogate for the 2024 campaign.
“Lara is an extremely talented communicator and is dedicated to all that MAGA stands for,” Trump said in his statement. “She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT!”
Neither Lara Trump nor Whatley immediately responded to requests for comment.
“This is not Game of Thrones, it’s about winning,” a Trump adviser said in a text message to NBC News. “The President wants a RNC tooled to win and given he has effectively secured the nomination in record time, it’s prudent to ensure the party can deliver in November.”
In a statement Monday night, an RNC spokesman said 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,” spokesman Keith Schipper said.
A former RNC official said: “Anyone working there that didn’t think it was going to happen, which there are some, isn’t ground in reality. But when you have people who have worked there for eight years or more, they aren’t in the real world.”
Trump also said in his statement Monday that he has asked Chris LaCivita to be the RNC’s chief operating officer. LaCivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said he would maintain his position on the campaign, as well.
Steve Scheffler, an RNC member from Iowa, told NBC News on Monday night that he thinks Trump’s proposed replacements will have a “smooth transition.”
“I know he has confidence in Ronna, but you know, he just wants to put a new touch to it,” Scheffler said. “I don’t have an issue with that, and I don’t think anybody else does.”
Richard Porter, an RNC member who supported McDaniel’s bid for re-election, told NBC News that “none of this” is disrespectful to her, adding that she’s “done so much to advance and hold the party together.”
In a text message, Porter said Whatley “is widely respected within the party for strong organizational skills, as he has demonstrated as chair of the North Carolina party.”
He also said that Lara Trump is “a strong fundraiser and has a natural graceful style,” noting that President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Maureen Reagan served as RNC co-chair while her father was in office.
The campaign manager for Trump’s GOP primary rival Nikki Haley, however, likened the former president’s RNC plans to “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
“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,” said Haley campaign manager Betsy Ankney in a statement.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com