Former President Donald J. Trump on Monday night made public what he has been discussing privately for days: He has settled on someone to replace Ronna McDaniel as the chair of the Republican National Committee, and wants his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to be the co-chair.
“The RNC MUST be a good partner in the presidential election,” Mr. Trump wrote in his statement. “It must do the work we expect from the national Party and do it flawlessly. 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 said he wanted his “friend” Michael Whatley, currently the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party and the national committee’s general counsel, and “my very talented daughter-in-law, Lara Trump,” to serve as party leaders.
“Lara is an extremely talented communicator and is dedicated to all that MAGA stands for,” Mr. Trump said of his daughter-in-law, who is married to his middle son, Eric. “She has told me she wants to accept this challenge and would be GREAT!”
Mr. Trump is not yet the presumptive nominee, although he holds a commanding lead over his remaining primary rival, Nikki Haley.
The statement came hours after The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump had told people he was considering endorsing Ms. Trump. The Times had previously reported that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Whatley — a supporter of his false claims about widespread voter fraud — as the next R.N.C. chair.
Both the chair and co-chair are paid positions.
Mr. Trump cannot simply appoint them. An election must be called to replace Ms. McDaniel when she ultimately decides to step down. And despite Mr. Trump’s heavy influence over the party, his endorsement of Mr. Whatley in 2023 as co-chair was not enough to pull him across the finish line to win.
Ms. Trump had considered running for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina, which is her and Mr. Whatley’s home state, in 2021 ahead of the primary the following year. But she ultimately opted against running.
Mr. Trump added in his statement that one of his current top campaign advisers, Chris LaCivita, would move over to become “in effect” the chief operating officer of the R.N.C. — solidifying total Trump control over the party apparatus.
“Every penny will be used properly,” Mr. Trump concluded his statement, referring to widespread concerns among Republicans about the R.N.C.’s strained finances. “New Day.”
Ms. McDaniel, who has served as the head of the party’s official body for several years, has told Mr. Trump that she plans to step down shortly after the South Carolina primary on Feb. 24, according to two people briefed on the matter. Mr. Trump has publicly described Ms. McDaniel as a “friend,” but she has been the focus of intense pressure from both inside and outside the Trump campaign.
Mr. Trump’s team plans to meld the R.N.C. with his campaign as much as possible. That would be a change from 2016, when he was the insurgent nominee whose team was often at odds with the party’s stalwarts, and from 2020, when he was the incumbent president with a team that allocated core functions to the party committee. This time, Mr. Trump’s team is aiming for as little daylight between the two entities as possible, according to several people briefed on the matter.
And they’re hoping to commence the partnership with the R.N.C. well before the Republican National Convention in mid-July — cementing Mr. Trump’s status as he stares down at least one potential criminal trial before then and four criminal trials overall.
Mr. Trump and his advisers have been heavily focused on what resources will be available to him as a nominee, as he faces enormous legal bills. Those bills have so far been paid for by a political action committee he controls, Save America.
Mr. Trump is fighting what remains of his Republican primary opposition with Ms. Haley, who had been his ambassador to the United Nations. But Ms. Haley is trailing Mr. Trump in South Carolina, her home state, as well as in Super Tuesday states.
After Mr. Trump beat Ms. Haley in the New Hampshire primary — the early state where she was best positioned to defeat him — Ms. McDaniel, who had remained publicly neutral until then, said it was time for the party to unite around Mr. Trump.