Trump loved RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel — until he didn't

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It's no secret that former President Donald Trump and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel have fallen out.

After reports that McDaniel was finalizing plans to leave the RNC this spring, POLITICO reported Monday that Trump already has a replacement in mind: He plans to endorse North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley for the job.

Trump has been increasingly public about his mounting discontent with the committee and with McDaniel in particular.

But it wasn't always this way. McDaniel, who is the niece of retiring Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), first captured Trump’s attention when she held the role of chair of the Michigan Republican Party in 2016. Trump rewarded McDaniel after his historic win in the state by installing her as RNC chair.

But what was once a relationship of mutual admiration appeared to dissolve over the years.

Here are five moments that illustrate the gradual shift in the duo’s relationship.

August 2017: McDaniel defends Trump’s ‘both sides’ comment after 'Unite the Right' rally

Less than a year into Trump's administration, a counter-protester was fatally struck by a car during the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Then-President Trump failed to condemn the white supremacists responsible for the event that turned deadly. Trump, after first declaring that "racism is evil" in a news conference, saidduring an exchange with a reporter two days later that there were "some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."

The remarks set off a firestorm of controversy. McDaniel defended Trump on Aug. 16 on the set of “Good Morning America,” telling ABC News’ David Muir: “The President condemned the white supremacists and the KKK and the neo-Nazis unequivocally.”

Muir responded: “It took 48 hours for him to do that.”

McDaniel shot back: ‘But he did it.’

2018-2020: Trump praises McDaniel at rallies

It wasn't just her defense of his Charlottesville remarks. Trump seemed to express genuine admiration for McDaniel throughout the first years of his presidency.

Trump also kept her close as he ran for re-election. At a Dec. 2019 campaign event in Battle Creek, Michigan, Trump recalled that McDaniel urged him to return to the state in the final days of his campaign — something he seemed to credit with his victory there in 2016.

He called her “the most aggressive human being I've ever met,” before musing: “And we did it. And we won Michigan.”

At a Nov. 2, 2020 rally in Traverse City, Michigan, Trump brought McDaniel on stage after singing her praises. “She has done a fantastic job,” Trump said.

She then told the crowd: ‘Lightning struck four years ago and we blew the minds of the media and the world when we delivered Michigan for President Trump. Are we ready for lightning to strike twice?”

Trump appeared charmed, and said into the microphone: “We love her. She’s fantastic.”

June 2022: The Jan. 6 Committee puts McDaniel’s loyalty to Trump on display 

McDaniel was also one of the many Republicans called to testify before the Jan. 6 select committee.

Her deposition footage revealed that — after the 2020 election — Trump connected her with John Eastman. Eastman is the architect of the fringe legal theory that the vice president had the power to swap official electors with ones who supported Trump during the certification process.

“He turned the call over to John Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states,” McDaniel said in the deposition video.

She then confirmed the RNC helped the Trump campaign assemble “contingent” electors.

The Detroit News later reported in December 2023, that McDaniel participated in a call with Trump urging Michigan canvassers not to certify the results of the election.

“If you can go home tonight, do not sign it. ... We will get you attorneys,” she reportedly said on the call.

But regardless of what she told them, CNN reported that Trump resented the RNC actions following the 2020 election. Sources told CNN he blamed the organization for not having the proper lawyers to successfully overturn the results.

January 2024: McDaniel urges unity around Trump after New Hampshire primary 

Trump emerged as the favorite to win the nomination early, but even in spite of his clear lead in the polls, much of the party waited until after his victory over former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in New Hampshire to show their support.

McDaniel was one of those key voices. She told Fox News, “There’s a message that’s coming out from the voters, which is very clear: We need to unite around our eventual nominee, which is going to be Donald Trump.”

The vote of confidence came after McDaniel vowed in 2021 that the RNC would remain neutral throughout the primary process if Trump ran again.

February 2024: Trump abandons McDaniel

Trump echoed his earlier praise for McDaniel’s work in Michigan in a Feb. 4 interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, but he struck a decidedly different tone.

“I think she did great when she ran Michigan for me. I think she did okay initially in the RNC. I would say right now there will probably be some changes made,” Trump said.

A day later, McDaniel met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. In a Truth Social post by Trump later that day, he answered questions about her future.

He called McDaniel a “friend” but then said he would call for changes at the RNC following the Feb. 24 South Carolina primary.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Ronna McDaniel’s last name and misstated the name of the rally in Charlottesville.