Trump set to take over Republican Party by installing key ally, daughter-in-law to lead RNC

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HOUSTON – The Republican Party on Friday will formally once again become what in reality it has been for eight years – the party of Trump.

That is when the voting members of the Republican National Committee (RNC), who are gathering for a quickly called general session, are expected to overwhelmingly vote to confirm a key ally of former President Trump and Trump’s daughter-in-law to serve as national party committee chair and co-chair.

The RNC gathering, which was scheduled in the last couple of weeks, comes in the same week Trump swept 14 of the 15 GOP primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday – which moved him much closer to officially locking up the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. It also comes just two days after Trump’s last rival for the nomination – former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – dropped out of the race.

“He’s the presumptive nominee. He’s going to be our nominee. He’s going to be the guy to beat Joe Biden, and it’s normal for the presumptive nominee of the party to run the RNC,” longtime RNC committee member from Mississippi Henry Barbour told Fox News on the eve of the meeting.

TRUMP CAMPAIGN PUSHES BACK ON TALK THE RNC WILL BE FORCED TO PAY THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S LEGAL BILLS

Republican presidential candidate former President Trump speaks at a Super Tuesday election night party on Tuesday, March 5, 2024, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Additionally, New Hampshire GOP chair and former RNC committee member Chris Ager, who is also attending the meeting, emphasized that “Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee and this is the party of Trump.”

Longtime RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, whom Trump picked to steer the national party committee after he won the White House in 2016, is stepping down at the meeting. Her departure comes after Trump earlier this year repeatedly urged changes at the committee – after lackluster fundraising last year and his opposition to the RNC’s presidential primary debates – which essentially pushed McDaniel out the door.

TRUMP MEETS WITH MCDANIEL, THEN CALLS FOR CHANGES AT THE RNC

In her place, Trump picked North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley to succeed McDaniel. Whatley, the party’s general counsel, is also a Trump ally and strong supporter of the former president’s repeated claims that his 2020 election loss to President Biden was due to massive voter fraud.

The former president also picked his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, for RNC co-chair. She is expected to focus on fundraising for the committee and on media appearances.

Trump is also installing campaign adviser Chris LaCivita as RNC chief of staff. LaCivita, a longtime Republican strategist and RNC veteran, will continue to keep his role as one of the two top advisers steering Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.

“The people at the RNC know and like Mike Whatley, so he’s a good choice and Lara Trump is a trusted adviser to the president, so why not give him the tools he needs to get the job done. If he trusts those people, let’s give him what he needs to get that win in November,” Ager told Fox News.

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Trump’s takeover of the RNC is far from controversial. It is traditional as a presidential election cycle moves from the primaries to the general election for the presumptive nominee of the party out of power to take control and merge operations. 

Barbour emphasized that while “there’s always some drama” at RNC meetings, “it’s really important that the party pull together… and we need the former president leading us on that, bringing us together as a party so we can win not just the White House but the Senate, the House, state, local.”

RNC members gather in Houston

The Republican National Committee gathers in Houston on Friday March, 8, 2024 to vote on new leadership recommended by former President Trump. (Paul Steinhauser/Fox News)

However, there has been some controversy in recent weeks over concerns that the cash-strapped RNC would be forced to pay some of Trump’s massive legal bills. 

The former president faces four major criminal trials and a total of 91 indictments, as well as a $355 million civil fraud judgment which Trump’s appealing. A political action committee affiliated with the former president has shelled out nearly $80 million in the past two years to pay Trump’s many lawyers.

The RNC paid some of Trump’s legal bills when he was in the White House and after he left office. However, McDaniel said two years ago that the committee would stop paying those bills once Trump became a candidate again.

LaCivita has said in recent days that the RNC would not be paying the bills. The Trump campaign told Fox News on Wednesday that the committee would  “absolutely not” be providing any of its funds to alleviate Trump’s legal costs.

“Hard no. Absolutely not. Asked and answered,” a spokesperson reiterated.

RNC STARTS 2024 WITH FUNDRAISING SURGE AFTER LACKLUSTER 2023

Barbour recently proposed a non-binding resolution stating that RNC funds could not be used for Trump’s legal bills. However, the resolution was nixed after Barbour was unable to earn the support of RNC members from at least 10 states.

“A small group of us offered a resolution to the committee that essentially said that the number one job and the only job of the RNC is to win elections. And if that’s our job, we need to spend our money on that and not on paying anybody’s legal bills,” Barbour told Fox News.

He emphasized that “while we came up short… it was an important conversation and the Trump campaign has confirmed indeed that they have no plans to spend any RNC dollars on it and will not do it.”

“We appreciate that very much,” he noted.

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

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