Bill Kristol encourages floor revolt at GOP convention

Bill Kristol encourages floor revolt at GOP convention
© Getty Images

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol joined a conference call on Tuesday night to encourage Republican delegates to protest on the floor of the convention in a last ditch effort to block Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE from obtaining the party’s nomination.

ADVERTISEMENT

Kristol, who has spearheaded the charge for an independent candidate to enter the race, was the guest speaker on an organizing call of conservatives who are seeking to deny Trump the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month.

The group of delegates, lawyers, rules experts and political action committees insist that delegates are not bound to any primary or caucus vote and are looking to pass convention rules that allow them to vote their “conscience.”

Kristol told organizers on Tuesday night that if their representative at the convention doesn’t cast a vote in accordance with their wishes, they should protest on the floor.

“It’s very important to establish the principle that the delegates have the right to vote as they see fit,” Kristol said. “Think of the … contrast of some delegate’s chairman standing up and casting some vote, while all the delegation is there saying, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ That’s why I think there could and should be floor challenges if it comes to that."

“I think we’re on the right side of history and on the right side of rejecting someone who shouldn’t be the nominee of the Republican Party,” he added.

National Review writer David French, who Kristol once recruited to launch an independent bid, was also on the call and encouraged delegates not to “fear the chaos” of a contested convention.

“A rebellion on behalf of a majority of delegates would potentially rescue the party of Lincoln from making a fatal mistake,” French said. “The nomination of Donald Trump stands to alienate such a large percentage of the nation that the GOP may never rescue itself from minority status in this country.”

Two other conservative media personalities, Iowa radio host Steve Deace and blogger Erick Erickson, are also associated with the movement but were not on Tuesday’s call.

The Republican National Committee has dismissed the effort and blamed the media for giving the movement outsized attention.

Many legal experts are doubtful that the groups, which have names such as “Free the Delegates” and “Delegates Unbound,” can accomplish their mission of a convention coup.

There are signs that Trump supporters are looking to head-off the effort by passing rules that would ensure the delegates stay bound to the primary and caucus results. And it’s generally believed that a majority of the delegates at the convention will go along with the results of the primary, which Trump won easily.

But the “Free the Delegates” movement is still the most coordinated effort by a group of “Never Trump” Republicans to date.

The effort is led by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, who told The Hill last week that she had 17 firm commitments and eight soft pledges from members of the convention's Rules Committee who said they’d vote for her “conscience clause.”

She needs 57 votes from the 112-member panel to get the rule passed automatically. Unruh described the effort as an “uphill battle” on Tuesday’s call and appears to be reducing her efforts to getting 28 signatures from members of that panel so that the rule can at least be considered for adoption.

“There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of fear, and a lot of — ‘I’m with you in theory, but I’m trying to get the courage to come out publicly and support it,’” Unruh said on Tuesday’s call. “I’m confident I’ll get [the 28 signatures] and we’ll just go from there.”

Even if the committee fails to codify Unruh’s conscience clause, organizers are telling delegates that they’re unbound irrespective of what the rules say.

GOP strategist Dane Waters is running a multimillion dollar whip operation to reach as many delegates as possible before the convention to tell them they can vote for whomever they choose.

Waters said his group made several hires over the weekend and bristled at press characterizations that the effort was “fledgling.”

The groups will privately plan their floor strategy in the coming days, Waters said.

Meanwhile, a federal court will hear oral arguments Thursday in a case brought by Beau Correll, a Virginia delegate, that challenges a state law that binds delegates to the primary winner.

Legal experts interviewed by The Hill have characterized the lawsuit as a “long-shot.”

Waters warned that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Democratic attorney general in the state to torpedo the legal challenge.

“The overall theme here is that with the intimidation and intervening in the litigation and talking everyday about how delegates are bound, it’s very clear that Donald Trump will do everything in his power, and his team will do everything in their power, to ensure the delegates are intimidated and try not to allow them to vote their conscience,” Waters said. “We all know [delegates] have the right to do that.”