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RNC lays off dozens of staffers days after Trump’s team takes over

By Daniel Strauss, CNN

(CNN) — The Republican National Committee began laying off dozens of staffers on Monday, days after Donald Trump’s handpicked team took the reins of the organization, according to two Republican operatives with knowledge of the dismissals.

The layoffs affect staffers across multiple departments, the sources said. The cuts also go beyond senior staff to vendors and mid-level employees, one of the Republican operatives said. Vendor contracts will likely be cut as well.

Some staff who were asked to resign could reapply for jobs at the organization.

It’s not unusual for there to be staff turnover at a national committee after that committee’s party has a de facto or official presidential nominee, but the depths of these cuts go beyond the norm and underscore the lackluster fundraising the committee has experienced lately.

Politico first reported on the layoffs.

Top officials in communications, the political department and the data team were laid off, according to multiple Republicans with knowledge of those layoffs.

Last week the body of 168 RNC members elected Michael Whatley, the North Carolina Republican Party chairman, its new chairperson, succeeding Ronna McDaniel. Chris LaCivita, co-campaign manager of the Trump campaign, has also come into the RNC as its chief operating officer while continuing to work at the campaign. LaCivita quickly brought on Sean Cairncross, who has held positions at the organization, as his number two.

In an email to staff on Monday, Cairncross wrote that “Chairman Whatley is in the process of evaluating the organization and staff to ensure the building is aligned with his vision of how to win in November.”

“During this process, certain staff are being asked to resign and reapply for a position on the team,” Cairncross continued in the email, which was obtained by CNN.

The final day of employment for staffers who choose not to reapply would be March 31, he said in the email.

Some of the deepest cuts went to the data and political departments, as well as to the state directors and the regional political directors. The election integrity division was untouched, according to a Republican with knowledge of the layoffs. Going forward, the digital and finance teams would be based out of Palm Beach, the Republican also said.

The cuts reflect two forces at play for the RNC and the Trump campaign.

The former president and his team have signaled strong interest in closely aligning the organization with the presidential campaign, and Trump himself was drawn to backing Whatley for RNC chair in part because of his reputation as having a strong interest in pursuing claims of voter fraud.

The committee has also struggled in fundraising and has been experiencing one of its weakest fundraising periods in decades.

Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law, was elected co-chair and is likely going to focus on fundraising and public appearances. Whatley is positioned to handle more of the nuts and bolts of leading the organization and following through on the president’s wish to make sure the organization is capable of deeply pursuing claims of voter fraud in the election.

By Monday night, the cuts had left some Republican operatives wondering about the capabilities of the RNC going forward. The cuts to programs not directly related to election integrity called into question how capable the RNC would be for the rest of the cycle, especially in terms of fielding a ground operation to support a presidential campaign.

A Biden campaign official pointed out in a statement to CNN that the reelection campaign has 100 staff on the ground in battleground states.

“This month, we will continue to build out our physical presence with 100 office openings and at least 350 new staff members,” the Biden campaign aide said. “Our battleground staff are using this volunteer base through regular training and big mobilization moments, like the Affordable Care Act anniversary. Donald Trump has no announced battleground state staff or programs, and will be inheriting virtually zero infrastructure from hollowed out state parties.”

This story has been updated with additional details.

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