GOP rules expert: Not too late for RNC to recall Trump
© Getty Images

A top GOP rules expert says it’s not too late for the Republican National Committee to recall Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE as the party’s nominee, bolstering the last-ditch efforts of a Never Trump group working behind the scenes to toss the billionaire from the ticket.


In an opinion written for the Free the Delegates group that tried to steal the nomination from Trump at the GOP convention last month, conservative parliamentarian Thomas Balch argues that the 168 members of the RNC have broad authority to recall the nominee for almost any reason.

Rule 9, which was adopted at the convention, appears to only give the RNC power to fill vacancies, not to create them.

“The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise,” the rule states. 

Those trying to convince the RNC to recall Trump have had difficulty convincing members that the rule gives them the power to proactively create a vacancy on the ticket.

But Balch, the parliamentarian, wrote in his opinion that the use of the term “otherwise” bestows almost endless authority on the RNC to remove a candidate, whether it's because that person has become incapacitated for health reasons or because the candidate is running a losing campaign that faces certain doom.

“Additional cases could be posited in which the majority of the RNC might interpret 'other' circumstances effectively to cause a vacancy,” Balch wrote. “Suppose the nominee were to be indicted for shooting people in the street, or were to give aid and comfort to an enemy nation amounting to treason. Perhaps acting so fundamentally at variance with party principles as to make the candidate functionally no longer representative of the party could be deemed to qualify.”
“The critical point is this: because the word 'otherwise' is ambiguous and not elsewhere defined, the majority of the RNC is entitled to interpret and decide what it encompasses, and may then validly apply that interpretation in excising its authority to fill the vacancy it thereby deems to exist,” he added.

The Never Trump group believes the opinion from Balch, a top GOP rules expert and one of the editors of the latest edition of Robert's Rules of Order, gives it the ammunition it needs as it solicits signatures from RNC members to force a recall vote.

The Free the Delegates group says its volunteers have begun bombing the phones and inboxes of RNC members to pressure them to sign a letter that would force an emergency meeting to recall Trump.

They only need 16 RNC members from 16 states to force the meeting. A source close to the effort said the group has more than eight RNC member signatures at this point.

The group says it has run into opposition from RNC members who have said Rule 9 does not permit the GOP to recall Trump, who has not died, declined the nomination or become physically incapacitated.

From there, they would need a majority of the 168-member RNC panel to vote in favor of recalling the real estate mogul. That seems unlikely, as every effort the Never Trump Republicans have launched to date have fizzled under opposition from the RNC and Trump campaign.

But with Balch’s letter, and Trump’s falling poll numbers, the group believes it will land the remaining eight RNC members it needs to at least force a meeting and a vote on a recall agenda.

“We need people of influence and determination in an unprecedented time looking at unprecedented loss to take the unprecedented step to replace Donald Trump as the nominee,” said Beau Correll, a Virginia lawyer and key figure in the movement.

Some RNC members interviewed by The Hill are unlikely to be convinced by Balch’s letter.

Morton Blackwell, a RNC committeeman from Virginia, has told The Hill on multiple occasions that members have no authority to recall the nominee and that efforts to do so are “patently absurd” and “a lot of nonsense.”

The Free the Delegates group and other Never Trump Republicans joined forces at the GOP convention in an effort to force embarrassing votes or procedures in an effort to derail Trump’s nomination but were thwarted at every turn by the Trump campaign and RNC.

The group says it has until early September to force the recall meeting, which it says would give it time find a replacement and swap the new candidate onto the ballot.