Activists who were unable to block Donald Trump’s presidential nomination are trying again, this time petitioning the Republican National Committee to call an emergency meeting to strip him of the nod.
Just like the group’s months-long fight to stop Trump at the party convention, this latest attempt is likely to be a mostly symbolic act of defiance. Even though Trump is trailing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in polls, an overwhelming majority of Republicans still support him, and top party leaders are rejecting calls to find a new standard-bearer with fewer than 100 days until Election Day.
And yet, the mere fact that party activists are trying yet again to rid the party of Trump reflects widespread apprehension and mounting opposition to the nominee among Republicans. Current and former GOP lawmakers, former government officials, and top-flight party consultants have said they’re leaving the party or will vote for someone else, given Trump’s recent wave of words and deeds that have insulted or worried military families, foreign policy experts, Muslims — even mothers with young crying babies.
Members of “Free the Delegates” — the movement that tried using party convention rules to snatch away the nomination and install another candidate — said Sunday that they’re reaching out to members of the RNC, which includes two representatives from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and territories, asking that they sign a petition calling for an emergency meeting that would lead to Trump’s ouster.
Party rules dictate that members from at least 16 states can compel RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to call an emergency meeting, which he would need to convene within 10 days. At the meeting, these activists want RNC members to invoke Rule 9, which lays out how to nominate a new presidential candidate in the event of a resignation, death or other circumstance.
According to the party rulebook, the RNC is “authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States.” If the nominee is removed, the RNC could opt to hold a new convention or select a new candidate by holding a vote among themselves.
“It is our goal to recall him,” said Beau Correll, a Virginia lawyer. He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention who filed a federal court case challenging party rules and state laws that required him to vote for Trump at the convention.
Correll and other members of the group want the RNC to focus on Rule 9’s use of the word “otherwise” — they feel that Trump’s recent round of missteps justify the party dropping him. They claim they started reaching out to RNC members on Sunday, asking that they sign documents like the one below and send them to Priebus:
But several RNC members said Sunday that they hadn’t heard from the activists — and aren’t interested in revoking Trump’s nomination.
“Have not heard from them. Won’t support them,” Toni Anne Dashiell, an RNC member from Texas, said in an email.
“I have not [heard from the group] and I believe that they will not have any semblance of success,” said Christine Toretti, an RNC member from Pennsylvania.
“Haven’t heard from anyone on this,” said John Ryder, an RNC member from Tennessee and the organization’s chief counsel.
Free the Delegates claimed to have the support of hundreds of convention delegates and alternate delegates, but they repeatedly were unable to change the party’s rules, force up-or-down votes during the convention or compel party leaders to enter other candidates’ names into nomination. In response, they booed loudly from the convention floor and some staged a walkout. But otherwise, their concerns were widely disregarded during the Cleveland convention.
Regina Thomson, executive director of Free the Delegates, said that her band of wary Republicans wasn’t prepared to discuss a specific vote count among RNC members, but that “we believe it will not be difficult to obtain the necessary signatures.”
But when Bruce Ash, an RNC member from Arizona, received an email from the group Sunday, he fired back a stern no thank you.
“NYET!!” he wrote in reply to an email from Thomson. “You will not succeed. You are totally self absorbed. How embarrassing for you. When our nominee defeats Clinton you will try, no doubt, to claim success. If we fail to win your 2nd guessing and lack of support will not be overlooked.”