GOP prepares to crown Trump, but Cruz forces may crash roll call vote

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Donald Trump speaks at the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016. (Adam Rose/CNN)

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CLEVELAND — The Republican Party will officially crown Donald Trump as its 2016 presidential nominee Tuesday evening, capping a raucous primary process that has divided the GOP.

But forces that oppose his nomination are working delegates in Cleveland to organize a protest to voice their displeasure with him and the process that brought him here.

An effort is underway to officially place the name of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz into nomination as well, multiple sources close to the operations say. Cruz is the only other candidate who qualifies under the rules requiring candidates to get a majority of delegates in eight states in order to be in contention for the nomination.

Doing so raises the specter of a second straight day of floor protests highlighting the divisions in the GOP and breaking the peace of the convention, which is normally a tightly scripted affair to present the nominee and party in the best possible light.

Trump’s victory is not in doubt. The party’s rules approved Monday make clear that delegates are bound by primary results if their state requires it. Trump has roughly 300 more delegates than he needs to clinch the nomination and will officially be the party’s nominee once 1,237 of the delegates cast their ballot in his favor.

Trump’s name will be put into nomination by Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, an early supporter of the businessman, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said at a briefing Tuesday morning. The nomination will be seconded with speeches by fellow early supporters New York Rep. Chris Collins and South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster.

The roll call will proceed alphabetically, with states announcing their votes for Trump, Cruz and the other candidates along the way. Certain states will also pass on the first go-around in order to give Trump’s home state of New York the honor of putting the real estate mogul over the top.

Trump’s roll call will be followed by the nomination and vote for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as the vice presidential nominee.

The gesture of putting Cruz’s name officially in nomination for president would mean the Texas senator would be allowed to give a speech before the roll call vote (he is currently scheduled to speak Wednesday night in prime time).

Cruz’s campaign did not answer a question as to what Cruz would do in that situation. The senator has kept his distance from disruptive efforts for weeks by his former officials and delegates.

Another symbolic move would be for delegates to announce their votes for other candidates besides Trump. Regardless of any such announcement from a delegation, GOP rules make clear that the secretary of the convention must count votes as they are meant to be cast, and delegates can request that each member of their state be polled when the vote is taken. Therefore, if there are 20 votes bound for Trump from a state, the convention secretary will record 20 votes, even if the delegation announces otherwise.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, asked about the effort to put Cruz’s name in nomination, said “I am not worried” about it, because it would not change the process or the outcome even if it succeeded.

Meetings are also underway Tuesday afternoon to go over the parliamentary process.

Should there be any disruption, it would be the second day of floor protests at the convention.

The Monday afternoon session briefly devolved into chaos as the rules were adopted. Groups fighting the rules on two separate fronts had turned in a petition signed by enough delegates to require an embarrassing and protracted roll call vote on the rules themselves.

But the RNC and Trump campaign whipped the vote during a brief delay in proceedings and enough delegates pulled out that the effort failed — sparking a roar of boos and chants of “roll call vote” from angry delegates who stood on their chairs and shouted their displeasure.

The RNC and Trump campaign do not want a similar display to erupt during Trump’s final coronation. While the RNC could allow the delegates to place Cruz in nomination as an olive branch, they could just as easily find a number of delegates with a sudden change of heart at the last minute again.

“They will say they have the signatures, and we’ll see if they do,” said CNN contributor Mike Shields, who is a former RNC chief of staff.

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