By Patrick Howley
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is speaking in Colorado Friday as a dogged confederacy of #NeverTrump delegates pool their money to try to stop Trump from winning on the first convention ballot in Cleveland.
A Republican rules expert is making a definitive case — presented here — that the anti-Trump rebels have no practical chance of stopping Trump in Cleveland. With that in mind, Trump’s visit to Colorado will be the stage to finally seek party unity going into his race against Hillary Clinton.
Trump will meet some of his most vocal foes head-on at the Western Conservative Summit, where he will speak alongside #NeverTrump supporting Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Ted Cruz supporter Carly Fiorina, and anti-Trump commentators Ben Shapiro and Erick Erickson. Anti-Trumpers will ceremonially build a wall in protest at Denver’s Civic Center Park while pro-Trumpers will rally at the State Capitol.
The wounds of party division are still fresh in Colorado, where Cruz supporters took all 34 elected delegate slots in a caucus that did not allow regular citizens to vote for president. Secretary of State Wayne Williams presided over the state convention while wearing an orange Ted Cruz shirt. After Cruz swept the delegates, the state party tweeted, “We did it. #NeverTrump,” before deleting that tweet. The chaos in Colorado prompted a pro-Trump protest and led the chairwoman of the Boulder County GOP to say that the caucus mighthave to be done over.
“I do think it’s going to be a coming-together moment,” Summit organizer Jeff Hunt told Breitbart News. “The person introducing Donald Trump is Steve House, the chairman of the [Colorado] Republican Party, so after everything that happened he will be the one introducing Mr. Trump and giving him a nice firm handshake. So I think that is a good sign that the party here is ready to move forward and unite in defeating Hillary Clinton.” Hunt said:
We heard from both sides in the run-up to this event. The #NeverTrump people said Donald Trump isn’t even a conservative so why are you even inviting him to your event? The pro-Trump people said, if you want to save conservatism we have to defeat Hillary Clinton and so you should dis-invite Ben Sasse and Carly Fiorina and the rest of them. We just kind of ignored both of them. We want to have the conversation and let people make their case…We don’t take any side on that. We have good friends in both camps that are dedicated conservatives.
“This is the first time we’ve had a presidential candidate attend. We invited Mitt Romney four years ago and he didn’t show. We make it clear what happens when you don’t show. You lose the state by six points,” Hunt added.
The #NeverTrump rebel movement, based in Colorado, is working with rebels in other states to build a floor operation that can convince enough Trump delegates to “conscience vote” in Cleveland to keep Trump below the majority threshold of 1,237 delegates on the first ballot. But pro-Trump and pro-Cruz activists are banding together in the state to convince the Republican National Committee (RNC) to un-seat the Colorado delegationbased on the massive ballot errors and inconsistencies that plagued the Colorado caucus. The activists’ appeal will be considered at a July 10 hearing in Cleveland convened by the RNC’s Committee on Contests. The Trump campaign and its supporters are also fighting the “conscience vote” movement in the convention’s Rules Committee and on the floor, where Trump’s pledged delegates are bound by state laws on the first ballot.
Can Trump’s speech in Colorado heal the party and stave off the “conscience” movement? As Trump’s appearance nears, voices on all sides are making their thoughts and strategies known.
In the space below, Breitbart News will first present the argument posed by the leaders of the rebel movement. Then, we will offer the findings of a Republican rules expert and former Senate counsel that the rebels do not have a chance:
The Rebel Alliance Has A Plan … And Cash
“We have to peel off approximately 20 percent of his votes. It’s do-able,” Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, a #NeverTrump activist and schoolteacher, told Breitbart News.
Unruh is leading the “Free the Delegates” rebel movement with Cruz’s Colorado volunteer coordinator Regina Thomson. The rebels need to get 306 of Trump’s 1,542 delegates to defect in order to keep him below the majority threshold of 1,237.
Thomson said that the rebels have “in the ballpark” of 400 delegates supporting them, but not all of those delegates are pledged to Trump. “We’re not releasing those numbers,” she said. Thomson said that she has not spoken to anyone in the Cruz campaign about whether Cruz is planning to re-enter the race, but noted that “any smart candidate at this point would be looking at the options.” Mitt Romney expressed interest this week in running again. John Kasich’s chief strategist sent out a memo showing Kasich doing well in polling against Clinton.
Unruh said that her movement now has “thousands of volunteers on board that are lobbying our own delegates … we now have staff that can actually meet Donald Trump head-to-head with a floor whip operation on the convention floor. And now we have money.” Unruh would not reveal the source of the cash, but Thomson said that anti-Trump PACs like Cruz supporter Steve Lonegan’s Courageous Conservatives PAC are pitching their own money into the effort.
Unruh revealed that Dane Waters is going to run the rebel floor game. Waters is the president of the Citizens in Charge Foundation, which counts #NeverTrump rebel Eric O’Keefe, a Cruz supporter, as a board member. Other rebels include Lonegan, Iowa radio host Steve Deace — who is providing delegate information to the cause — Rubio bundler James Lamb, and former New Hampshire U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey. Unruh said that Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol planned to join a rebel conference call, but Thomson said that Kristol is not involved in the plot in an operational way.
But do the rebels actually have the rules on their side?
“There is a misperception that we are changing the rules,” Unruh said. “The 2012 rules have died. We may choose to maintain those or not. That’s why we were elected. To draft new rules.”
Unruh is pushing a resolution to the Rules Committee to “affirm” the idea that delegates are not pledged or bound to anything other than their own conscience about whom to vote for.
Currently, Unruh’s resolution does not have the majority support of the 112-member Rules Committee, so it cannot pass there. Even Cruz-supporting Rules Committee members like Morton Blackwell do not want to make waves at this point. But if Unruh can get even a quarter of the Rules Committee, then her resolution will go to the floor for a vote by all delegates, where she thinks it would need 1,237 votes to pass. This vote would happen on the first day of the convention before the rebels meet in person. It would be an uphill climb.
“It is not necessary but it’s helpful,” Unruh said. “There is a demographic [of delegates] out there….they are your grandma volunteers, they don’t like to rabble rouse…they are the ones that need a ruling.”
State laws and also state party rules around the country bind Trump’s pledged delegates to him on the first ballot. Delegates can face criminal charges if they do not vote for Trump on the first ballot. Unruh says her group will deploy lawyers to the floor to counsel delegates on their legal options if they try to defy state laws. A rebel delegate and local Cruz campaign co-chairman in Virginia filed a lawsuit to erase state law and un-bind Virginia’s delegates. But the judge has not yet ruled on that case, and lawsuits are not cropping up in other states.
The rebels are passing around PDF files of a book called Unbound by North Dakota delegate Curly Haugland, who has been saying for years that there is no such thing as a pledged delegate at any Republican convention.
Haugland points to Rule 38 in the Rules of the Republican Party, adopted in 2012 in Tampa. Rule 38 prohibits a majority of delegates in a state from casting all of their state’s votes for one candidate if there are defectors within their ranks.
“Obviously, what is already in there is the unit rule, Rule 38, which is the unbinding mechanism,” Unruh said.
Here’s the text of Rule 38:
No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule. A “unit rule” prohibited by this section means a rule or law under which a delegation at the national convention casts its entire vote as a unit as determined by a majority vote of the delegation.
If they can’t win in the Rules Committee, the rebels plan to invoke Rule 38 — supposing it still exists after the rules are re-drafted — to challenge the votes of state delegations.
Unruh said that the rebels want to place at least one anti-Trump delegate in each state to conscience-vote, so that when the convention takes a roll call of states at least one dissenter can stand up, challenge the entire state’s vote before the process moves on to another state, and force the convention to count the votes individually in each delegation. This could drag the voting process out for hours or even days.
“That’s how the game will be played,” Unruh said.
But Trump de facto campaign manager Paul Manafort has a game of his own.
“Manafort has put the 150 whips in place and they’ve started to do their calling,” Unruh conceded. “I’ve heard from some of the delegates that they’ve started getting the calls.”
And the Republican Party rules are actually more damning for the rebels than they seem to even realize.
Republican Rules Will Likely Stop The Rebels
“This is a non starter,” Trump supporter Roger Stone told Breitbart News, dismissing the rebel plot.
Stone says that Team Trump is not even pushing for any kind of unit rule. Stone said that if the rebels actually wanted to un-bind these delegates they should have done it by changing the rules at state party conventions, not at the convention in Cleveland.
“The Republican National Convention has not allowed the unit rule since 1968,” Stone said. “Trump’s delegates are bound to him by state party rules based on primary and caucus results.”
“Even if the RNC allowed the Unit Rule it would have to also be allowed by state party rules approved many months ago — it doesn’t,” Stone said.
“Whatever the rules of that state are, then those hold,” Flake said. “If somebody … went into it knowing that they would commit to the winner of their state, they ought to be committed to it.”
Former Senate counsel Paul Jensen, who attended his first Republican convention in Dallas in 1984 and will be in Cleveland, told Breitbart News that the rebel plot has no chance.
“Under the rules, it’s very clear — and no one could debate this — that states are allowed to make law and state parties are allowed to make rules for binding delegates,” Jensen said.
Jensen pointed to Rule 16 in the Rules of the Republican Party, which pertains to the “Election, Selection, Allocation, or Binding of Delegates and Alternate Delegates.”
Here is text from Rule 16 (emphasis added):
(a) Binding and Allocation
(1) Any statewide presidential preference vote that permits a choice among candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in a primary, caucuses, or a state convention must be used to allocate and bind the state’s delegation to the national convention in either a proportional or winner-take-all manner, except for delegates and alternate delegates who appear on a ballot in a statewide election and are elected directly by primary voters.
(2) The Secretary of the Convention shall faithfully announce and record each delegate’s vote in accordance with the delegate’s obligation under these rules, state law or state party rule. If any delegate bound by these rules, state party rule or state law to vote for a presidential candidate at the national convention demonstrates support under Rule 40 for any person other than the candidate to whom he or she is bound, such support shall not be recognized. Except as provided for by state law or state party rule, no presidential candidate shall have the power to remove a delegate.
So what is Haugland talking about when he cites Rule 38’s prohibition against the “unit rule”?
“The unit rule issue has been brought up by somebody who is conflating different issues,” Jensen said. “The unit rule prohibition is a prohibition against a delegation casting one vote as a whole if they have a majority vote of its members. Let’s say the delegation has 60 delegates and 31 of them support Trump. Well, those 31 cannot control all 60 votes.”
“But whether a state delegation can be elected by winner-take-all is an un-related issue,” Jensen said, noting that no delegate is allowed to break state party rules. If they do, then their vote will be thrown out.
So even if Unruh’s rebels stand up and challenge in every state during the roll call, and the convention is forced to count each vote individually, it wouldn’t matter. Because delegates will still not be able to violate their state rules. And if they do, their votes will be thrown out under Rule 16.
“The rules very clearly state that if a delegate casts a vote in violation of state laws or state rule in that state, that delegate’s vote will not be counted,” Jensen said.
“If you want to play the game that [Haugland’s Rule 38] has been violated by the state chairman, that’s not going to fly for very long. By the time you get to the B’s or the C’s, like ‘Connecticut,’ somebody is going to put a stop to the frivolous” challenges, Jensen said.
“If a delegate stands up, takes the microphone away from their state chairman and says, ‘Mr. Speaker, my state chairman is illegally using the unit rule,’ I believe the speaker would then poll the state delegation … all that this would accomplish is that the votes of those who violate state party rules would not be counted,” he added.
In effect, the rebels would be invoking a rule simply to create a scenario in which another rule would de-legitimize their vote. It’s a Catch-22.
“I wish you would explain it to people who think there is any hope for shenanigans,” Jensen said, amused at the rebels’ lack of expertise.
So is there any chance for the rebels at all? Jensen says there is only one thing they could do to get around Rule 16.
“The only way to get around the rules is to suspend the rules,” Jensen said.
Jensen pointed to Rule 32, which gives delegates the option to suspend all of the rules, including Rule 16.
Here’s the complete text of Rule 32, which pertains to the “Suspension of Rules”:
A motion to suspend the rules shall always be in order, but only when made by authority of a majority of the delegates from any state and seconded by a majority of the delegates from each of seven (7) or more other states, severally.
In other words, a motion to suspend all of the rules must be proposed and then seconded by a majority of the delegates in eight different states to even get to the floor. Then, this emergency motion would have to be approved by not just a majority of all the delegates, but two-thirds of all the delegates.
“It would have to get 2/3 because the rules of the House of Representatives apply,” Jensen said, pointing to Rule 30.
Here is the entire text of Rule 30, which pertains to “Rules of Order”:
The Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States shall be the rules of the convention, except that the current authorized edition of Robert’s Rules of Order: Newly Revised (“Robert’s Rules of Order”) shall be the rules for committees and subcommittees of the convention, insofar as they are applicable and not inconsistent with the rules herein set forth; provided, however, that the convention may adopt its own rules concerning the reading of committee reports and resolutions.
Thus, in accordance with House rules, two-thirds of delegates would have to vote to suspend all of the rules of the Republican party to give the rebels any chance.
“It could only pass if Mr. Trump’s true support at the convention was less than 1/3. Trump can defeat the motion if he has 1/3 of the delegates in his camp,” Jensen said. “One-Third!”
“Those who are in the #NeverTrump camp who are tossing around the possibility that they could get around state law and state party rules regarding binding of delegates are living in a fantasy land,” Jensen said.
As rebel leader Regina Thomson told Breitbart News, “This is my first convention.”