CLEVELAND — Rare has obtained video and audio footage showing the strong-arm tactics used by GOP leadership against some delegates seeking to force a roll call vote on the rules of the Republican National Convention. In the opening hours of the convention Monday, chaos broke out as groups of delegates passed around petitions and sought to rise up in protest of rules that force delegates to cast their ballots only for the candidate they pledged to support during primary and caucus season.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus proclaimed there were not enough signatures to force the roll call vote, but not before officials from Trump’s team and the RNC tried to whip rogue delegates into shape, blowing up their phones with texts (below) and stern floor conversations.
In the video, recorded by a delegate as a group of at least four of Trump’s men surrounded two delegates from Maine, one man tries to intimidate the delegates: “I just want to know, just what you were thinking, what you wanted to accomplish, what, what, what your thoughts were?”
One of the Maine delegates asks them, “You don’t think the liberal media is going to use the RNC trying to whip delegates and you tell them you don’t have any power? You need to give back the power.”
“It’s not about power,” one of Trump’s men says. The delegate responds, “That’s exactly what it is. That is exactly what it is. The convention is the ultimate authority on the party, and it needs to be treated as such.”
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, among the anti-Trump delegates demanding a rules vote, told Politico, “We are now in uncharted territory.”
“I have never in all my life, certainly in six years in the United States Senate, prior to that as a lifelong Republican, never seen anything like this,” Lee said.
As they stand, the rules say delegates must remain bound to their particular candidate and cannot vote according to their “conscience.” If delegates were to become unbound, it could mean Donald Trump might not win on the first ballot.
AJ Spiker, the co-founder of Delegates Unbound and the former Chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and a former RNC member, told Rare that there was “intimidation, coercion, threats” on the RNC floor Monday against those calling for a roll call vote.
“To me, this is an egregious abuse of power by Chairman Priebus,” Spiker told Rare. Spiker, along with Delegates Unbound, were on the RNC floor as the uproar was unfolding. The delegates from Colorado and Iowa walked out over the rebuff.
Spiker alleged that the RNC, under the leadership of Priebus, was pushing delegates to sign on to the rules committee vote. “The implication is that you’re seeing the continuation of the abuse of power by the chairman,” the former RNC member told Rare, adding, “You’ve got the highest level of the Republican Party orchestrating a power grab.”
Spiker explained that the actions on the RNC floor followed days of the convention whipping votes in their favor from delegates.
These texts were sent to an RNC member on the rules committee and shared with Rare:
A transcript of the video is below:
Speaker one: Ahm, can you tell me, just walk me through your mind set with the petition?
Maine Delegate one: Excuse me?
Speaker one: The petition
Maine Delegate one: Yep
Speaker one: The petition, that you handed out. I just want to know, just what you were thinking, what you wanted to accomplish, what, what, what your thoughts were?
Maine Delegate one: We’re just trying to accomplish a roll call vote on the rules
Speaker one: Tell me what you want to accomplish with the roll call vote on the rules vote. Just walk me through it.
Maine Delegate one: I mean it’s pretty self-explanatory, we are trying to accomplish a roll call vote on the rules report.
Speaker two: Why are we asking about what we are seeking to accomplish to be helpful in order for us.
Speaker one: OK, yeah, yeah that’s what I want to know.
Speaker two: It’s obvious, right? What happened in the rules committee meeting, and I think any republican standing back and watching what is happening to their party, that knows where power is consolidating, should be concerned. And that was the largest power grab we have ever seen in the rules committee. I mean they just took it all and said ‘We are in charge, delegates have no power.’ And this convention floor full of delegates is the most powerful part of the party. And when we convene every four years, there’s no other more powerful part of the party than we delegates on the floor.
Speaker one: Are you on the rules committee?
Speaker two: No, I’m sorry actually to interrupt
Maine delegate one: No, you are fine.
Speaker one (to the Maine delegate one): You were one the rules committee
Maine delegate one: I am on the standing rules committee for the National Committee.
Speaker one: But not the committee.
Maine delegate one: No not the convention committee, I observed it though.
Speaker three: Um, so our concern is, is that this roll call vote is going to be, um-
Speaker one: It’s going to be manipulated.
Speaker three: Yeah, it’s going to be manipulated. It’s going to take 5 hours.
Maine delegate one: It’s not going to take 5 hours.
Speaker three: No, not the vote itself, it’s not going to change anything is the concern. Because for example, in the rules committee, 84-12 was the vote.
Speaker one: Right.
Speaker three: But let’s say we replay that, let’s say we replay that 10 times and nothing changes. We are just giving the left ammunition that we, we already have.
Maine Delegate one: No we are not, no we absolutely are not.
Speaker three: You don’t think the liberal media is going to use that to?
Maine Delegate You don’t think the liberal media is going to use that to use-
Speaker three: No they are going to say something.
Main Delegate one: You don’t think the liberal media is going to use the RNC trying to whip delegates and you tell them you don’t have any power, you need to give back the power.
Speaker three: It’s not about power.
Main Delegate one: That’s exactly what it is. That is exactly what it is. The convention is the ultimate authority on the party, and it needs to be treated as such.
Speaker three: An open roll call is a form of power, sure, like I am going to express my vote again, that is understandable, if nothing-
Speaker four: Hey, hey what are you doing man?
Speaker five: Your point is that you must at least hypothetically be thinking considering it goes to the rules committee.
(Brief pause for introduction of passerby)
Speaker three: Hey, can you give us a second, are you with the media? They’re having a private conversation.
Maine delegate two: No, no I am just assisting what he is doing.
Speaker three: Are you in the media? Are you in the media? What are you?
Main delegate two: I am a delegate, don’t worry about it.
Speaker three: Alright, man.
Speaker five: So if your vote is successful hypothetically, your point is that it goes back to the rules committee and get a vote in the rules committee and it will just come back in the same form. But this is a test on who has power in the party. Is it the membership, or is it-
Speaker three: Our question was: what’s going to happen? I mean, what’s going to happen. That was our question.
Maine delegate one: The purpose is- the purpose is call a roll call.
Speaker one: Reverse to 2012 rules, that’s what’ll happen.
Speaker one: Excuse me, I don’t think it’s right to record our conversation, it actually seems kind of rude.
Maine delegate one: I don’t think it’s rude to document something at a political convention that is supposed to be open and documented.