Election Deniers Are In Key Republican Leadership Posts

The new team of Trump loyalists in charge of the Republican Party have spent years promoting the former president’s lies about the 2020 election. With the 2024 election around the corner, they’re set to pursue an agenda built on false claims of election fraud.

As dozens of Republican Party staffers have been purged in recent days and an incoming team takes power, much of the media attention has focused on new party co-chair Lara Trump ― who has said of Joe Biden’s presidency, “I don’t think he won it fair” ― and Christina Bobb, the far-right news anchor with a history of rejecting the 2020 election results, and who is now the party’s senior counsel for election integrity.

But the culture of election denialism starts at the top. Michael Whatley, the new Trump-endorsed chair of the party, is the former GOP general counsel and chair of the North Carolina GOP. He falsely claimed immediately after the 2020 election that there had been “massive fraud” nationwide.

“We do know that there was massive fraud that took place,” he said during a late-November radio interview, CNN and CBS News reported last month. “We know that it took place in places like Milwaukee and Detroit and Philadelphia.”

When reporters asked why he kept alleging that election fraud had occurred, Whatley claimed that “all you have to do is look at the stories that we’re seeing out of Philadelphia, the Detroit area, we’re seeing out of Milwaukee, egregious violations of election law. And there’s no question why it puts these elections at risk.”

When accepting the job of party chair, Whatley bragged of working with then-chair Ronna McDaniel to build the party’s election integrity program “from scratch” as general counsel, and said the Republican National Committee would be “focused like a laser on getting out the vote and protecting the ballot.” He added: “If our voters don’t have confidence that our elections are safe and secure, nothing else matters.”

Whatley has also flirted with conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, as CNN notes. A month after the attack, he falsely claimed that “most of the people that have been arrested were not necessarily Republican voters.” Just days ago, the Raleigh News & Observer also reported that Whatley had failed to denounce a particular Republican candidate for state House even though the candidate had ties to neo-Nazis.

Whatley has since acknowledged Biden’s election ― meeting an extremely low bar. And when asked by CNN about his past comments, he appeared to dramatically walk back his remarks, saying that changes to voting by mail in 2020 “weakened safeguards” and “led to distrust by many.” Nonetheless, multiple reports have indicated that Trump favored Whatley for the top job because of his focus on supposed election fraud and how Republicans will prevent it.

Specifically, Whatley won Trump’s favor by describing the North Carolina GOP’s 2020 poll watcher program. Trump has said that Whatley will stop Democrats from “cheating,” The New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources. (Whatley’s pitch was made easier, no doubt, because Trump won North Carolina in both 2016 and 2020.)

Ironically, Whatley’s own election as chair of the North Carolina Republican Party used electronic voting machines, and it led to claims of wrongdoing. Even assuming that election was legitimate, the GOP’s new chair has a decadeslong history with sharp-elbowed election fights: One of his first jobs in politics was in Broward County, Florida, as part of a team of lawyers fighting for George W. Bush in the contested 2000 presidential election against Democratic nominee Al Gore. After the Supreme Court intervened and Bush won the White House, Whatley got a job in Bush’s Department of Energy.

“It was really the first time that Republicans got down into the trenches and fought,” Whatley said in 2021, per The Associated Press. “We knew if we were not there, they were going to steal it.” He later became a lobbyist for energy companies and Lockheed Martin, and then an early Trump supporter, The Washington Post reported.

Key to Whatley’s goal of building out the RNC “election integrity” units will be the new top bureaucrats at the party: Chris LaCivita, Trump campaign co-manager and now reportedly RNC chief operating officer, and Sean Cairncross, former RNC COO and now reportedly LaCivita’s deputy.

The Post reported that the new leadership will be even more aggressive when it comes to challenging voter ID and signature verification laws in court ― a posture that LaCivita, who’s best known for the “Swiftboat” attacks against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004, described as “much more offensive and much less defensive.”

Charlie Spies, an experienced Republican election lawyer, will reportedly take over as chief counsel. LaCivita said Spies was “actively involved in election litigation,” in the paper’s words.

With Bobb in the mix as an “election integrity” lawyer, things are likely to get quite a bit more active.

Formerly a host on the far-right channel One America News Network, Bobb developed an unusual working relationship with the Trump campaign, eventually becoming an attorney for Trump and at one point claiming to the Justice Department that there were no more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago when, in fact, there were. That episode itself drew Justice Department scrutiny of Bobb, NBC News and The New York Times reported.

After the 2020 campaign, she played a volunteer role in the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the election results, reportedly working closely with Rudy Giuliani on the effort to assemble false “electors” for Trump in states where he lost to Biden but contested the legitimacy of the results. She left OAN in 2022 and began working at a Trump-affiliated political action committee.

While an anchor at OAN, she simultaneously ran a group that donated money to the politicized “audit” of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County, Arizona. That group, Voices and Votes, also paid for out-of-state lawmakers to visit the audit ― which Bobb then reported on for OAN. Bobb was later named in an ongoing defamation suit from the voting machine maker Dominion. In 2022, Politico noted that Bobb’s name appeared in metadata for a draft executive order instructing the military to seize voting machines nationwide.

Bobb was reportedly present at the Trump team’s Willard Hotel “command center” ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. Perhaps most notably, when Trump-supporting rioters attacked the Capitol that day, Bobb tweeted a message for then-Vice President Mike Pence in the middle of the attack, urging him to accede to Trump’s and the rioters’ demands and block the certification of Biden’s win.

“@VP @Mike_Pence can solve this now by sending it back to the legislators,” Bobb wrote. She later appeared on white nationalist Stew Peters’ show and agreed with his contention that “traitors that have stolen our country” should face trial for treason.

Bobb had another message on Tuesday: “I’m honored to be a part of the new team at the RNC.”

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