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National News

Trump’s pick for RNC chief worked with top election denier’s group

Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Zachary Roth, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 12, 2024

Former President Donald Trump’s choice to be the next chair of the national Republican Party briefly teamed up last election cycle with a voter fraud watchdog group closely tied to Cleta Mitchell, the conservative lawyer who played a key role in Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 vote.

Trump is backing Michael Whatley, the chair of the North Carolina GOP, to be the next Republican National Committee chair, the New York Times reported Feb. 6. Ronna McDaniel, who currently holds the post, has told Trump she will step down later this month, according to the Times.

Whatley, a veteran GOP campaign operative who served in the administration of President George W. Bush, is reported to have won Trump’s support because he backs Trump’s baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen through widespread voter fraud. Last year, Trump endorsed Whatley, who is currently the RNC’s general counsel, to be the organization’s co-chair.

Whatley spoke at a 2022 conference aimed at rooting out voter fraud and organized by the North Carolina Election Integrity Team, the group’s founder, Jim Womack, told States Newsroom.

“We brought them to our summit,” said Womack. “I gave Whatley an opportunity to address our people, and he talked about how it was going to be a great team effort.”

Around that time, Whatley also let Womack briefly plug NCEIT on a conference call of county chairs, said Womack, who chairs the Lee County GOP.

NCEIT is a chapter of the Election Integrity Network, which Mitchell founded in 2021 to train poll watchers to aggressively hunt for fraud at the polls. Womack has called Mitchell “our mentor.”

Mitchell, who is based in North Carolina, was closely involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the result of the 2020 election, including participating in the December 2020 phone call on which Trump urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the votes he needed to win the state.

A special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia recommended indicting Mitchell, but she was not charged.

The North Carolina Republican Party declined to comment about Whatley’s work with NCEIT.

Womack, who ran unsuccessfully against Whatley for state party chair in 2019, said that after Whatley’s appearance at the summit, the relationship fizzled, as Whatley kept NCEIT at arm’s length from the state party.

Womack said the party under Whatley discouraged Republican volunteers from getting involved with NCEIT.

“They were telling a lot of the counties, don’t use their reporting system, don’t go to their training, go to our training,” said Womack.

Indeed, Womack complained that Whatley hadn’t gone far enough in fighting against fraud.

Still, under Whatley, the state party in 2021 unveiled a 16-member “Election Integrity Committee” to push for tighter voting rules and recruit poll watchers.

At a conference that year hosted by the conservative group CPAC, Whatley suggested that if it wasn’t for the party’s election integrity legal work, Democrats would have stolen a 2020 election for state Supreme Court that was won by the Republican candidate by 401 votes.

“You can’t tell me in 100 North Carolina counties, they couldn’t have come up with four votes (in each) if I didn’t have lawyers and attorneys in every single one of those counties,” Whatley said.

“This is gonna have to be part of the Republican establishment going forward,” Whatley added, referring to intensified legal efforts. “This is going to be lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit.”

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.