What to Expect From Anti-Donald Trump Forces This Week

Efforts to change the rules to block Trump are dead, so what’s left?

ByABC News
July 18, 2016, 8:20 AM

— -- It’s all but over for anti-Donald Trump forces after a push for a last-minute change to the convention rules fell flat last week.

But a handful of Republicans have still been working around the clock in recent days, insisting that delegates to the GOP convention are free to vote for whomever they choose, even under the current rules, and that’s where things could get messy on the convention floor this week.

"Are we finished? Are we done? No, not by a long shot," Dane Waters, who is spearheading the movement, told ABC News in an interview. "So what’s next? I think the delegates will make it clear they are unhappy about this."

But their argument doesn’t hold water with top Republican officials responsible for interpreting the rules. They insist that all delegates are bound and that their votes will be counted according to how they are bound, even if delegates try to go rogue.

"After having been elected delegates, positions created by the rules and pursuant to the call, they may not retroactively change the rules under which they were elected," said John Ryder, the RNC's general counsel. "The rules of the Republican Party both permit and require the binding of delegates.”

Blocking Trump’s nomination now is virtually impossible. But it’s on the table that a group as small as a dozen delegates, spread out in various states, could throw the typically celebratory roll call vote into confusion.

"They are trying to silence the delegates -- and they will not be silenced," he said, saying earlier this week not to expect the roll call to be "some quiet little rodeo."

The current rules allow for individual delegates to object and force a recount in their states if they believe their vote was announced incorrectly. If a state delegation chair doesn’t include a delegate who is trying to go rogue, it could lead to a floor fight.

The presiding officer could also gavel the convention forward, ignoring the objections. Any vocal dissent from inside the party represents a threat to the GOP’s attempt to present their presidential ticket with strength and unity, especially during a nationally televised vote that officially makesTrump the party’s standard-bearer.

But there are still rumblings that delegates could pursue forcing a vote on the full convention floor on a proposal to give more delegates to states that let only registered Republicans vote in the primaries or blocking registered lobbyists from serving on the Republican National Committee. These efforts appeared to be near adequate support to force a vote during preliminary rules meetings last week.

"There could be a floor fight over a minority report," said Henry Barbour, a rules panel member from Mississippi. "I don’t think a minority report is all that likely, but people have every right to sign a minority report and people have every right to vote against the rules package coming out of the rules committee."

The effort comes after months of trying to whip votes to support a rules change to allow delegates to vote for whomever they choose. That push died in the convention’s rules panel last week, and the movement’s leader told ABC News that she will abandon any effort to force a vote on the full convention floor.

Kendal Unruh, head of the Free-the-Delegates movement who pushed the rules change that failed, said she had abandoned the effort to whip up votes over the weekend for a minority report, but she planned to pursue her “Plan B,” joining Waters and Delegates Unbound in trying to convince delegates they can vote their conscience during the roll call, or at least make their voices known if they disagree, possibly causing convention floor chaos.

"They have to now take the baton," she said. "The delegates have the power: Take the power.”

Waters says his group is still hoping to vote down the entire rules package using a roll call vote, which would require a majority of delegates in seven states to accomplish.

But Unruh got emotional when talking to ABC News, detailing how she has been attacked by Trump supporters.

"My daughter was threatened," Unruh, who is a high school government teacher in Colorado, told ABC News of her 17-year-old daughter. "The very real cost to this is not just about politics. It was the vitriol from the people that became such a key to this: the hate and the death threats," she said, choking back tears.

"Some of my votes that peeled off said, 'My family's now being threatened,'" she told ABC News. "We had several people defect because they said, ‘I can't pay this price.’"

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