Who is NC GOP Chair Michael Whatley, Trump’s pick to lead the RNC?

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The leader of the North Carolina Republican Party, Michael Whatley, has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement to become the new chair of the Republican National Committee.

“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 in a statement on Monday.

Whatley has frequently repeated Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election. In November 2020, he told a local radio show that “massive fraud” took place in Democratic cities and claimed before the election that Republican poll observers were being prevented from entering voting places.

The New York Times reported that Whatley’s support of these false claims made him a top candidate for Trump, with one of their sources describing Whatley as a “stop the steal guy.”

The Democratic National Committee was quick to criticize Trump’s announcement.

“With his endorsement of election denying conspiracy theorist Michael Whatley for chair of the RNC, Trump is making it clear that the GOP is the home for insurrectionists and extreme MAGA fanatics,” DNC Rapid Response Director Alex Floyd said in a statement.

The current RNC Chair, Ronna McDaniel, has not officially announced that she will step down. The New York Times reported McDaniel told Trump she would leave after the Feb. 24 primary election in South Carolina.

“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,” RNC spokesperson Keith Schipper said in a statement. “Nothing has changed, and there will be no decision or announcement about future plans until after South Carolina.”

Who is Michael Whatley?

Whatley, a North Carolina native, was first elected chair of the N.C. Republican Party in 2019.

Originally from Watauga County, Whatley studied history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and later got his master’s degree in religion at Wake Forest University.

He spent time working in Charlotte as a federal law clerk while living in Gastonia. Whatley was also part of former President George W. Bush’s recount team for the 2000 election, and later worked in the U.S. Energy Department during Bush’s administration. After that, he became a partner at a consulting firm and a vocal supporter of Trump in the 2016 campaign.

Upon his election to chair, Whatley promised a “reset” for the party, whose outgoing chair, Robin Hayes, faced bribery charges in a massive corruption scandal. Hayes later pleaded guilty, but then was pardoned by Trump.

Following the 2020 election, Whatley focused heavily on disproven claims of widespread voter fraud in the presidential race.

In the days following the election, Whatley called on election officials to call the race in Trump’s favor as results were still coming in. The State Board of Elections does not call a winner in any election.

Under his leadership, the state party launched an Election Integrity Committee in 2021 intended to prevent voter fraud in future elections.

With Whatley’s support, the party also voted to censure former Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr after he voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Last summer, Whatley came under fire for the way his most recent election to chair of the state party was conducted. At the party convention, organizers used an app to conduct elections for party leadership.

The app allegedly did not track a user’s location — potentially allowing people not on the convention floor to vote in violation of the rules.

In July, the North Carolina Republican Party was sued by attendees of the convention who claimed there were irregularities in the party leadership elections. A judge later threw out the lawsuit.

Not the only North Carolinian Trump is supporting

In his statement on Monday, Trump also noted that he would endorse his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, to become RNC co-chair.

A North Carolina native and graduate of N.C. State University, Lara Trump considered running in the state’s U.S. Senate election in 2022.

She ultimately decided not to run, clearing the way for Donald Trump to endorse Ted Budd in the race.