GOP squashes Never Trump rules proposal in heated hearing

GOP squashes Never Trump rules proposal in heated hearing
© Getty Images

CLEVELAND — Republicans crafting the rules that will govern the Republican National Convention overwhelmingly rejected a proposal put forth by Never Trump Republicans to unbind delegates and move to upset presumptive presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT

The "conscience clause" amendment, put forth by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, would have freed delegates from the results of the primaries and caucuses so they could revolt against Trump on the convention floor.

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Push for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 New act can help us grapple with portion of exploding national debt MORE (R-Utah), a close friend of former candidate Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE (R-Texas) and critic of Trump, spoke in favor of the Never Trump faction. Still, the proposal received little support.

The GOP Rules Committee instead ratified a handful of other proposals that stated delegates will remain bound to the results of the primaries and caucuses.

A strong majority of the 112-member Rules Committee repeatedly voted against the Never Trump movement in a big win for the presumptive nominee and the Republican National Committee, which is looking to minimize disturbances caused by the rebel group.

Thursday’s votes will call into question whether the anti-Trump effort has enough support to get 28 signatures on the measure, which would ensure it gets a vote before the nearly 2,500 delegates when the full convention convenes on Monday.

The heated, emotional debate within the Rules Committee took place 14 hours into the panel's marathon session that appeared to be headed into the early hours of the morning on Friday.

Pro-Trump Hawaii committeeman Nathan Paikai, adorned in a “Make America Great Again” hat, tearfully pleaded with committee members to drop the rebellion and get behind the presumptive nominee.

“Are we going to do this together or are we going to be divided?” Paikai asked. “I’m only as good as my word, and I ask you to be as good as your word. A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

But Lee, the highest-ranking elected official on the Rules Committee, signaled in his remarks that he’s not certain Trump will emerge from the convention as the party’s nominee.

“I hope whoever our nominee is this time will win over the delegates,” he said. “I say to Mr. Trump and those aligned to him — make the case to those delegates to support you. Don’t make the case that their voices should be silenced. It won’t help elect him president or help our party in the long run.”

Texas delegate Steve Munisteri responded:

“My understanding is that you represent the grassroots,” he said to Lee. “Yet you want to ignore the real grassroots, the millions of voters who voted for Donald trump and transfer that opinion to a couple thousand delegates. If we’re really representing the grassroots, we need to listen to those voters”

The “Free the Delegates” movement only had about a dozen supporters on their side for each of the votes. 
That’s perhaps not surprising on a committee made up of party loyalists and RNC members who have little incentive to upend the status quo.

Unruh, a Colorado committeewoman, claims to have the 28 signatures to keep the proposal alive, but that looks less likely after Thursday’s overwhelming rejection.

But the movement says it has a multimillion-dollar whip operation and that it's reaching out to delegates to urge them to vote their conscience irrespective of the Rules Committee's decisions.