Trump operatives squash ‘Dump Trump’ movement

Campaign 2016 | But what would have happened if prominent Republicans had spoken up sooner?
by Jamie Dean
Posted 7/19/16, 09:35 am

CLEVELAND—Most afternoon sessions of national political conventions pass unnoticed by most Americans, as newscasters perched high above the convention floor chatter about the speakers scheduled for the prime-time broadcast.

But Monday’s afternoon session at the Republican National Convention suddenly erupted into a mini-melee for thousands of delegates on the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, and it became the most-contested moment in recent convention history.

It was the tumultuous end of the movement to “Dump Trump,” or at least to vote on rules to allow delegates to vote for a nominee of their choice. And it was Donald Trump’s operatives who dealt the last-minute blow that drew shouts from the convention floor and sent the Colorado delegation storming out.

The effort to unbind delegates had seemed dead on arrival by Monday morning. During a 16-hour convention rules committee meeting last week, Trump staffers and Republican National Committee (RNC) operatives thwarted the effort by convincing enough committee members to vote against it.

But grassroots efforts, led by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh and others, weren’t over. By Sunday afternoon, they were still working the phones. They needed delegations from seven states to approve a roll-call vote on Monday—a move that would have polled individual delegates on the rules package.

By Monday morning, they had at least nine.

It looked like the roll call possibly could happen, but when Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who was presiding over the convention, called for a voice vote on the question, chaos ensued. Womack said the proposal failed, though it wasn’t clear to many on the floor which side’s voices were louder.

Womack left the stage for 15 minutes as delegates shouted disapproval. When he returned, he made an announcement: Three states had withdrawn their support for the roll call. Without support from seven states, the proposal failed.

What happened? Trump operatives had successfully lobbied the states to back out of the effort. It wasn’t immediately clear why the states agreed, and an RNC official told Time magazine the party wouldn’t release a list of the states that withdrew.

By late Monday night, both sides were disputing the numbers of states that had signed on, and the numbers that withdrew, and members of the unbinding efforts called on RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to revisit the issue.

It’s not clear if that will happen, but one thing is clear: Hundreds of delegates wanted an opportunity to vote on the rules, and despite calls for unity, divisions in the party remain deep.

Gary Emineth, chairman of Trump’s finance committee, resigned his position after the floor fight. Though he’s a Trump supporter, Emineth said he stepped down “in protest of the bullying tactics employed by the RNC to silence the voice of delegates.”

Even the mild-mannered Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, shouted at the moderator from his arena post, and he later told reporters, “We are now in uncharted territory. Somebody owes us an explanation.”

The Republican Party had been in uncharted territory for months, with a controversial front-runner who won primaries but still divided Republican leaders and Republican voters in a host of states.

When members of the party’s rules committee launched an effort to unbind delegates at the convention, it wasn’t clear how Lee, a committee member, would vote. Last Thursday, he made a plea during the committee meeting to allow delegates to decide.

(Others on the committee were also pressing for closed primaries in the next presidential cycle to limit the choice of the Republican nominee to Republican voters. That proposal failed as well.)

Lee had been a Trump critic for months, but he didn’t endorse a Trump opponent in the primaries until the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., dimmed. Lee then endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Meanwhile, Cruz, Trump’s closest primary opponent—waited months before raising alarms about the front-runner’s temperament and character. (When reporters asked Cruz to comment on some of Trump’s controversial comments and language last fall, the senator avoided the question by saying there was nothing the media would like more than to divide Republicans.)

Others Republican lawmakers ducked reporters in the halls of Congress and avoided commenting on Trump as the potential nominee.

Would it have made a difference if more Republicans had voiced concerns earlier over Trump instead of remaining silent? It’s political hindsight now, but perhaps a potent lesson moving forward for a party struggling to find its way.

By Monday evening, the arena still buzzed with talk of the earlier floor fight, but prime-time coverage focused on a speech by Melania Trump, Donald Trump’s wife.

In an unconventional move, Trump appeared on the first night of the convention to introduce his wife. He seemed unfazed by the day’s events, telling the crowd, “We’re going to win so big.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie is WORLD’s national editor based in Charlotte, N.C. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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  • SNelson
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 12:23 pm

    Trump supporters can use all the bully tactics they want to push their candidate and call us names when we find Trump too repulsive to support, but let's see them get Trump elected WITHOUT us. It won't happen. I think Trump has handed Hillary this election.  Sometimes I wonder if that's what he intended.

  • Zinger
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 01:18 pm

    At this point, the only way Hillary wins is if Republicans stay home from the polls.  Get over it.  Trump is the Republican candidate.  It is either him or Hillary.  If Hllary wins, the nation as we know it will not survive.

  • Sojourner For Now
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 03:40 pm

    "Get over it."  Seriously?

    If voting for Trump violates a person's conscience then there is nothing for them (and me) to get over.  Perhaps it's time that Trump supporters take in the fact that many people that did not vote for him in the primaries are not going to vote for him in the general.  Perhaps it's the Trump supporters that need to come to terms with this fact - and get over it.  

  • Trumpetly Speaking
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 02:11 pm

    "Trump operatives had successfully lobbied the states to back out of the effort. "  "Lobbied" may be a too-little-too- late description of events every bit as much as the late effort to condemn Trump on the part of Republican leaders.  "Lobbied" describes a legitimate, and reasoned effort to persuade others, a necessary part of our democratic process. However, what happened Monday as Kendal Unruh states, I believe accurately, is that delegates were bullied and threatened into changing their votes.  Which word more accurately conveys past and continuing behavior from TrumpandComp: "lobbied" or "bullied"?  Right.  We should have a roll call so that when he loses by a landslide in November, we at least have a record of all those who supported a despicable candidate. They are the ones who should leave the party, not those whose conscience cannot allow a vote for this awful candidate.  He's only ever had 40% of the Republican vote, and we don't know if even those were truly Republican voters.

  •  austinbeartux's picture
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 03:01 pm

    George Will said it best.  "I joined and left the Republican Party for the same reason.  I am conservative."

    I agree with him.  I did not leave the Republican Party.  It left me.

  • sanman101
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 04:39 pm

    I'm with Zinger.  Trump wasn't my first, second, or third choice but now that he's the nominee, he's got my vote, because a crooked, careless Hillary presidency would spell sure disaster for America, and the Supreme Court would be lost forever.

  • CW
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 05:33 pm

    What makes anyone believe that Trump will honor anything he says.


  • Pastor Klueg's picture
    Pastor Klueg
    Posted: Tue, 07/19/2016 06:33 pm

    If it were the other way around and someone was trying to change the rules at the last minute, we would be crying bloody murder. Delegates who were elected by popular vote ... as the rules were at the time of voting ... and are thereby committed to vote for Donald Trump on the first ballot and should of course do so. Claiming "conscience" to evade a morally binding committment is bogus. If one did not like the way the rules were, one should not have been a delegate in the first place. I voted for Cruz in the primary, but will vote for Trump in the general. No brainer. It's not as though the establishment/refined/elitist cadre has done so great by us. I was not so thrilled with McCain or Romney either, but I sure did not sit it out or vote for Obama to "make a point" that no one would listen to.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 10:02 pm

    1.  Those who tried to be released to vote according to their consciences (a) went through appropriate channels to try to get the release, and (b) still voted as the rules required them to vote when it came to it.  This, despite the shady tactics used to get 3 state delegations to change their minds regarding a floor vote.  The "outsider" Trump (that hypocrite) and the RNC teamed up to quash any opposition to his nomination.  The RNC has signed a contract with the Devil.

    2.  We who *cannot* in conscience vote for Trump are not "making a point."  We truly cannot vote for Trump and stand before God with honor.  That is how we see it.  The most painful part for me, personally, as one who cannot vote for Trump with a clear conscience, is the constant drum-beat of statements that I am helping Clinton's cause.  This is especially painful when I hear other Christians say this.  This is nothing more than an extension of Trump's bullying tactics.  It is also a breach of the principle of weak versus strong faith espoused by St. Paul in Romans 14.  The Christians who placed their faith in their back pockets and voted to nominate Trump are to blame, not us.

    3.  To compare Romney and McCain to Trump is ridiculous.  Romney and McCain are both honorable men who made worthy presidential candidates.  Trump is an amoral, narcissistic bully.

  • gndgirl
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 09:00 pm

    The fact is that one of these two will be president, with or without my vote. If I don't vote, I am actually helping Hillary. While I respect those who say they cannot in good conscience vote for Trump, I cannot in good conscience help Hillary, or contribute to the further corruption of the Supreme Court, by refusing to cast a vote. This is truly a choice between the lesser of two evils, and the lesser evil is Trump. Not voting isn't a choice, nor is voting for a third party candidate. That, too, is helping to elect Hillary.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 07/20/2016 10:06 pm

    gndgirl, if your conscience allows or demands that you vote for Trump in the general election, then go for it!  I have no problem with that.  But if Trump loses, point your finger at the true culprits:  the Christians who voted to nominate him in the first place, thereby placing their brothers and sisters in a moral quandary.