"Never Trump" Movement Dies in Committee

"Never Trump" Movement Dies in Committee
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CLEVELAND – A long-shot, last-ditch attempt by a few Republican delegates to prevent Donald Trump from securing the GOP nomination failed by an overwhelming margin late Thursday night.

Some anti-Trump delegates on the Republican National Convention Rules Committee sought a strategy to unbind convention delegates, allowing them to vote their conscience against Trump even if they were bound to him by primary results. Delegates loyal to Trump and the Republican National Committee fought back by proposing a counter-measure to clarify that all delegates are bound to vote based on the primary results.

The votes came near the end of a marathon 14-hour session of the rules committee to set any changes ahead of next week’s convention to officially nominate Trump as the Republican presidential candidate. The first vote, on the pro-Trump measure to keep delegates bound, passed easily, 87 to 12.

Immediately following that vote, Kendal Unruh, a Colorado delegate who has led the efforts to unbind the delegates, offered her highly anticipated amendment. She gave a speech beforehand calling the ability to vote one’s conscience a “God-given right.”

“The right to conscience is not just something that we’ve decided is a cool idea. It’s something that is the very basis of our nation,” Unruh said. “It is why the pilgrims came here and founded our nation. It is a God-given right to why we have the Bill of Rights.”

Immediately after that, however, Michigan delegate Matt Hall moved to end debate on the measure, and more than two-thirds of the committee, 77 to 21, voted to cut off all debate while some anti-Trump delegates, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, were still waiting to speak on the matter.

The committee then voted against Unruh’s amendment by voice vote, with the opposition so clear that a recorded vote was deemed unnecessary.

Though there are other potential moves for the anti-Trump candidates that are even longer shots than the rules committee plan, the vote against Unruh’s amendment effectively ended the "Never Trump" movement and sealed Trump’s fate to be nominated here next week.

Those pushing to unbind the delegates can still bring forward a minority report by Monday, which would force the issue to be debated by the full convention, but they were well short of the necessary 28 supporters for that Thursday night and would need a massive shift in support over the weekend to turn the tide. 

Still, the anti-Trump delegates made sure their voice was heard. Lee, who had kept his decision private up until the issue came to a vote, spoke passionately on behalf of unbinding the delegates and made his opposition to Trump as a candidate clear.

“This problem, this angst, as we will see in a few days, isn’t just going to go away just because we paper over it with rules,” Lee said. “So I say to Mr. Trump and those who’ve aligned with him: Make the case. Make the case to those delegates who want to have a voice. Make a case they should use their voice to support him. Don’t make the case that their voices should be silenced.”

Steve Munisteri, a committee delegate from Texas, directly rebuked Lee for his stance. He said that Lee’s logic ignored “what are really the grassroots” of the party -- the millions of voters who voted for Trump to be the nominee.

“The only way to advance the conservative cause is through a strong Republican Party that is united to defeat Hillary Clinton and the Democrats this fall,” he said. “Sir, there is nobody else running for president in this party right now other than Donald Trump. No other person has said ‘I am running; I will accept your nomination.’ Nobody is vetting vice presidents, nobody is raising money with the Republican National Committee to prepare for the battle.”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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