Never Trump delegates claim they can force vote over GOP rules

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Signaling a potentially boisterous start to the Republican convention, anti-Trump delegates claimed on Monday that they’d collected enough signatures of delegates to force a state-by-state roll call vote on changing party rules, a battle that party leaders hoped to avoid.

It seemed highly unlikely that the insurgents would prevail. After a brief meeting in the convention arena, members of the rules committee said there will be no amendments to the rules that could deny the Republican nomination to Donald Trump.

“The war is over, Donald Trump will be the nominee,” said Bruce Ash, an Arizona delegate who sits on the rules committee.

A slow-moving roll call of the states still seemed possible, which the rebels seemed likely to lose. But even staging that vote would mean that instead of using the convention’s first day to emphasize unity behind Trump, the gathering could underscore the tumultuous relations between Trump and party leaders on one side and social conservatives on the other.

Republican Party leadership and officials from Trump’s campaign said Monday they’d held 11th-hour talks with anti-Trump delegates to see if they could avert a messy floor fight, live on television, over the rules. But one official said the negotiations had failed, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

Some socially conservative delegates — many backers of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s failed presidential bid — have wanted to force the convention to hold a state-by-state roll call on whether to change the party’s rules in ways that would take power from GOP leaders. That bid includes an effort to let delegates back any candidate they want.

The dissidents collected signatures from delegates in at least nine states on petitions calling for the state-by-state roll call. The states include Washington state, Maine, Iowa, Wyoming, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, Virginia and the District of Columbia, according to signed petitions obtained by The Associated Press.

Party rules say a roll call should be held if a majority of delegates from seven states demand one.

But there are other requirements too — such as delivering proper documents to the secretary of the convention — that must be met to qualify for a roll call. The conservative delegates have said they think party leaders could thwart a roll call by taking steps like making it hard for them to deliver their documents.

After a frantic search on the crowded convention floor for the secretary, Susie Hudson, the rebellious delegates found a GOP official who said he would deliver the petitions.

“Now we take this fight to the floor,” Dane Waters, a leader of the Delegates Unbound, said in the email.

Party leaders and the Trump campaign shrugged off the rebels.

“It’s not a movement,” said Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “It’s some rogue, recalcitrant delegates.”

In a brief interview with The Associated Press, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who Trump considered as a running mate — said of the insurrection, “It’s silly. Trump carried 37 states. He’s going to be the nominee.”

Dalton Glasscock, a Cruz delegate from Wichita, Kansas, said in a text message to The Associated Press he plans to vote against convention rules but thinks most of the anti-Trump effort is thwarted.

“A convention shouldn’t be a coronation,” said Glasscock. “It should truly be a convention where we discuss the future direction of our party. If it’s just a coronation, then why are we spending the money to simply watch a preplanned show?”