“Trump’s Man at the R.N.C. Will Face Pressure to Satisfy His Election Lies”


After the 2020 election, one story out of North Carolina had a powerful effect on Donald J. Trump.

A proactive Republican, the story went, had worked behind the scenes to stop Democrats from stealing the election in the state and helped secure Mr. Trump’s victory there.

That Republican was Michael Whatley, the chairman of the North Carolina G.O.P. He had pushed the state party to recruit what he described as thousands of poll observers and hundreds of volunteer lawyers as part of an election-protection program. Mr. Trump called Mr. Whatley after the election, and Mr. Whatley boasted to him about that program’s success.

“That’s great,” Mr. Trump replied, as Mr. Whatley recounted the conversation in a speech to North Carolina Republicans last year. “Why the hell didn’t they do that in Arizona and Georgia?”

Mr. Whatley, who became the Republican National Committee’s general counsel last year, is now poised for a far bigger and more consequential role: Mr. Trump handpicked him to succeed Ronna McDaniel as the committee’s chair. Ms. McDaniel is expected to step aside Friday.

Mr. Trump’s selection of Mr. Whatley, whose appointment still awaits a formal vote, sums up the former president’s vision for the new R.N.C. He wants it to share his obsession with the false idea that President Biden and Democrats stole the 2020 election from him and are working to do it again in 2024. Mr. Trump believes Mr. Whatley is more in sync with his views about voter fraud than Ms. McDaniel, and he has insisted that Mr. Whatley will stop Democrats from “cheating” in November, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump and who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

But the story that stuck with Mr. Trump — that his victory in North Carolina had hinged on Mr. Whatley’s election-watchdog work — was just that: a story, based only loosely on reality….

Moreover, Mr. Whatley himself has a more mixed record than Mr. Trump may realize on the former president’s No. 1 issue. While he often sounds like a loyal soldier in the effort to falsely discredit Mr. Biden’s win, at other times he has distanced himself from the most extreme conspiracy theories promoted by Mr. Trump and his allies….

On the campaign trail Mr. Trump has praised a plan — first pushed by his former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn — to “guard the vote” during the 2024 election, with an emphasis on heavily Democratic cities with large Black populations.

“Michael Whatley will bring in active leadership in the form of election integrity, as opposed to a passive slash reactive approach,” said Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign adviser who is expected to soon move over to the R.N.C. to run its operations in the general election.

A spokesman for Mr. Whatley declined to answer questions for this article.

If there’s another tight race in swing states this fall, the R.N.C. will be far more active after Election Day than it was in 2020, said Steve Bannon, the far-right podcast host and former chief strategist to Mr. Trump.

“It’s the MAGA takeover of the R.N.C.,” Mr. Bannon said in an interview….

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