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Lara Trump as co-chair is the least of the RNC's red flags

Trump's hand-picked leadership team at the Republican National Committee is reportedly asking potential hires whether the 2020 election was stolen.

Soon after former President Donald Trump locked up the GOP presidential nomination this month, his hand-picked choices — including his daughter-in-law Lara Trump — were anointed to lead the Republican National Committee. A Trump helping steer the RNC is enough cause for alarm, but there are other, more worrying problems festering. Reports that prospective staffers are being asked whether Democrats stole the 2020 election suggest that the RNC won’t even pretend to put the interests of the party above Trump’s interests. And if President Joe Biden beats Trump again, then the RNC’s reconfiguration could determine whether the party accepts the results or helps cause more chaos.

Despite Lara Trump’s claim in an interview with NBC News that “I think we’re past that. I think that’s in the past,” Donald Trump continues to insist that the 2020 election was “rigged” and that attempts to hold him accountable for his alleged crimes are “election interference.” The Washington Post reported Tuesday that in recent job interviews for RNC positions, “Trump advisers have quizzed multiple employees who had worked in key 2024 states about their views on the last presidential election.”

That signals a major shift. Although then-Chair Ronna McDaniel was among those who signed off on decisions after the 2020 election to demand recounts and urge the courts to toss out mail-in ballots, as the legal avenues to challenge the results faltered, RNC lawyers refused to condone the plots that led to Trump and members of his inner circle being indicted.

“For the past several years, RNC lawyers have instructed party officials to avoid claiming that widespread fraud altered the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, or that the contest was stolen,” The New York Times reported Wednesday in an article that confirmed that RNC applicants are being prompted to say the election was stolen. “Instead, the lawyers have urged officials to say that some states had eliminated voting safeguards and to underscore a need for poll watchers.”

Some of those applicants are interviewing for their old jobs after being laid off in a massive purge. Pressing them on 2020 makes for a troubling litmus test for potential staffers who are expected to support Republican candidates in races up and down the ballot. If their employability depends on their willingness to parrot lies, well, that’s a major incentive for applicants to go ahead and embrace those lies. Many of the applicants asked have tried to hedge, “responding with some version of an answer saying that there had been irregularities in the 2020 presidential contest and that changes to rules and laws that year because of the coronavirus pandemic had created cause for concern,” according to the Times.

Beyond its attempts to stock its ranks with election deniers, the RNC, which is running low on cash and had only $11.3 million in the bank as of this month, is likely to be more dependent on the Trump campaign than ever. The Trump campaign and its affiliated political action committees aren’t faring much better, though, as small-donor fundraising has floundered and large donors are hesitant. Not helping matters for the RNC, much of the money that Trump is raising has been going toward his mounting legal bills.

Lara Trump said in her NBC News interview that the RNC “does not support” paying those legal bills. But a recent agreement between the Trump campaign and the committee on a joint fundraising vehicle has a substantial chunk of each donation going toward the same PAC that has been writing checks to cover Trump’s legal expenses. It’s a situation that, as my colleague Ja’han Jones noted, puts state-level parties at risk of not receiving crucial support from the national party.

This dynamic between the RNC and the Trump campaign is also fostering a situation in which, rather than bolstering and supplementing a presidential run, the national committee is essentially dependent on the campaign — and, more importantly, the nominee himself — for its financial health. Between these two pressure points, leveraging employment for political staffers and campaign funds on supporting Trump’s election lies, the danger to how the 2024 election’s aftermath plays out is apparent.

Suppose that Trump loses again in November. This time the party might be more inclined to support his scheming directly. Though Lara Trump claims 2020 is behind Republicans, the question of what happens should her father-in-law lose in November is ahead of us. That there’s doubt the Republican Party’s leadership would accept such a defeat is a warning siren that shouldn’t be ignored.