Trump’s RNC Takeover Is on the Brink of Becoming a ‘Purge’

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

First came the internal grumbling about Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.

Then came McDaniel’s decision to step down from her post at the end of February as she lost the support of Donald Trump.

After that came Trump’s move to put forward a slate of loyalists to take over the party’s top spots—including an election-denying state party chair, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and the former president’s own daughter-in-law.

The Truth About Trump’s RNC Shakeup—and Why the GOP Will Suffer

Next could come the purge.

“I think within 30 days you’ll see a purge of staffers from the RNC, because it’s a hotbed for anti-Trumpism,” Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and host of the War Room podcast told The Daily Beast. “That’s the open secret.”

Skeptical holdouts within the RNC have gotten the message: Their days are numbered.

But it’s not just RNC staffers who are not safe—it’s also the party’s 168 committee members and consultants who have enjoyed friendly business relationships with the party, according to GOP sources familiar with the dynamic who spoke with The Daily Beast.

“I think there will be a whole new 168, and they’ve been working around the country to make it a full Trump 168,” a source close to the RNC told The Daily Beast. “Trump’s gonna make his own rules here, and he wants his own people in there.”

The new RNC leadership slate, which still needs to win the support of a majority of the 168 members, is about as MAGA as it gets.

Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is the highest-profile addition, tapped to serve as a co-chair chiefly tasked with fundraising. Chris LaCivita, one of the top advisers on the Trump campaign, will serve in a de facto chief operating officer role, despite the position technically not existing within the RNC.

Trump loyalist Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina state GOP, is in line to directly succeed McDaniel as party chair.

One of their main goals in overhauling the RNC, according to a source familiar with the plans, is to rid the apparatus of so-called “partycrats”—those who’ve been climbing the ladder in D.C. working for GOP organizations—and replace them with staffers who have more campaign experience.

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“There’s no campaign people there, in that whole fucking building. Like none,” the Republican familiar with the plans said. “The RNC, they used to be known for providing a state-of-the-art campaign training. And inexplicably, they ended it years ago and could never explain why.”

The party’s training program worked well to help shape campaign managers, field organizers, and other important roles on campaigns, the Republican said. Under the new regime, the RNC will go back to training its canvassers in-house, rather than hiring outside firms to do so.

Everyone in the party “saw how that went in Iowa,” the Republican said, taking a shot at former GOP candidate Ron DeSantisbold yet failed strategy of contracting critical voter-contact tasks to outside groups.

The new and staunchly MAGA crew will take control of the RNC at a pivotal time for both Trump and the party. Trump is close to locking up his third consecutive presidential nomination and continues to exert dominance over a party he has already completely transformed since his 2016 election victory.

At the same time, Trump is about to hit a serious cash crunch stemming from his numerous court battles, and there are questions over whether he’ll continue to tap his own political operation, and the RNC itself, to pay the legal bills. The RNC, which ended 2023 historically low on funds, can’t quite afford that. A Trump official told Axios that no RNC cash would go to Trump’s legal defense, but there are possible ways around that.

On top of everything else, one of the chief goals of the new leadership group is to transfer more RNC money to state party organizations, particularly those in the battleground states, according to a Republican source familiar with the plans. In states like Michigan and Arizona—two pivotal battlegrounds—they could desperately use the transfers, with both GOP organizations close to going broke.

Despite the enormous challenges, this new triumvirate is inspiring optimism both in Trumpworld and around the RNC, at least among those who aren’t getting purged.

Though McDaniel rose to the party’s top position as an unflinching Trump loyalist, she fended off challenges to her leadership for much of the past year. In 2023, activist and lawyer Harmeet Dhillon ran against her RNC chair citing a list of grievances, chiefly wasteful spending.

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Although she took heat over the lackluster 2022 midterm results, McDaniel was ultimately undone by mounting clashes with Trump over the party’s finances and her refusal to cover his legal bills.

The new crew of leadership, of course, will be far less resistant to helping Trump however possible.

“I think what I’ve seen between Whatley, Lara and Chris, I think it’s gonna be a great team,” another RNC source familiar with the shakeup told The Daily Beast.

Bannon, who has often been harshly critical even of the Trumpified GOP establishment, seconded the sentiment, saying he believes “LaCivita is a tough political operative” and that he “understands exactly what needs to be done to clean out the consultant class rats’ nest at the RNC.”

While there is widespread agreement on the wisdom of Trump choosing Whatley and LaCivita to helm the RNC, opinions differ when it comes to Lara Trump.

Bannon, for one, commended Trump’s decision to elevate his daughter-in-law as the vice-chair, calling it “an inspired choice for the base.”

Within GOP circles, the concerns surrounding Lara Trump center on her being viewed as a nepotism appointment who doesn’t have the experience necessary to do what the co-chair job entails, which is mainly fundraising.

One former official on the Trump 2020 campaign expressed that they were happy McDaniel is leaving, but said that to view “Lara Trump as the solution is a joke.”

“She’s not there to be an asset to the RNC, she’s there to be Trump’s eyes and ears,” this former official said.

Another Republican operative relayed a similar sentiment about the presidential daughter-in-law, saying that “GOP donors are in full panic mode over the possibility of Lara Trump” being RNC co-chair.

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“The RNC needs someone who can rack in the dough for Trump,” the operative said. “She ain’t it.”

Still, some Republicans said Lara Trump has improved upon the initial impression she made to committee members on the fundraising circuit.

One source close to the RNC—who used to think she was a “lightweight” with little knowledge of the political landscape—conceded in a recent interview that the newly minted GOP power player has made significant strides in her command of the issues and personalities which dominate the donor landscape.

“I actually think she’s very competent and I think she’s smart and would learn quickly, the same as Ronna did,” the first source close to the RNC said. “In that position, one of her biggest things would be raising money, and she would have Trump’s contacts. It bothers me a little bit that it’s nepotism, but I guess that’s how his world runs.”

With Trump’s daughter-in-law handling the money, his senior campaign adviser will be overseeing day to day operations within the party—while still serving on the campaign.

Whether the RNC will be able to revamp its transfers to state parties remains to be seen. But the full merging of Trumpworld and the party apparatus is fast approaching, come what may in the next eight months.

“Way too early for us to be even speculating on the amount of money sent to state parties,” the Republican familiar with the plans said. “But expect to see a lot more activity between the RNC and state parties, and a lot more synergy between this RNC and the Trump campaign.”

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