- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2016

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus is coming under fire from some of his top officials, all of whom have been considered loyalists throughout his six years in office.

They are accusing Mr. Priebus of concealing from members proposed changes to the rules that will govern the party’s July presidential nominating convention in Cleveland.

“I consider this to be a major breach of trust,” said RNC Rules Committee Chairman Bruce Ash of Arizona.

A copy of Mr. Ash’s email to the Rules Committee was shared with the Washington Times by a Trump supporter on the Rules Committee who asked not to be named in the story.

The “breach of trust,” according to the Ash email, was the failure by Mr. Priebus’ Legal Counsel’s office to notify Rules Committee members that Oregon RNC member Solomon Yue had submitted a rules change, to be considered at Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting. Mr. Yue’s proposal would change the parliamentary rules for the national convention from the arcane Rules of the US House of Representatives to the widely used Robert’s Rules of Order.

Mr. Yue said he wants the convention to switch to Robert’s Rules to prevent the convention chairman from unilaterally reopening the nominations for president. Mr. Yue said House Rules can be interpreted to allow the chairman to do that; by contrast, Robert’s requires a majority vote of the delegates – some 70 percent of whom are expected to be either Trump or Cruz supporters and ill-incline to reopen nominations.

According to Mr. Yue, “establishment forces want to hijack the nomination with a ‘fresh face,’ as Karl Rove has said. Nominations should not be reopened without the consent of a majority of the delegates.”

Mr. Priebus’ former loyalists say they have reluctantly concluded that forces at the RNC will stop at virtually nothing to keep the door open to the nomination of Ohio Gov. John Kasich at the July convention – or, as some skeptics fear, some “white knight” who moderates claim will have broader voter appeal this fall than either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, the two top-delegate winners, have shown in most polls so far.

Mr. Priebus is a close friend of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is expected to be convention chairman. Mr. Priebus has enjoyed support from nearly all the 168 members — moderates and conservatives alike — on his national committee. He is the only national chairman to have won three successive two-year terms.

Only Mr. Trump has so far won support from the majority of delegates from eight states required to get on the convention ballot, under the rules all the candidates have campaigned under since last year. Mr. Cruz is expected to meet the threshold. Mr. Kasich has no realistic chance of doing so over the 17 remaining GOP presidential primaries and caucuses before the nominating convention. The eight-state rule is not expected to be changed by the RNC, but can be circumvented by reopening the nominations in the middle of balloting.

Mr. Ash said Mr. Priebus personally urged him and Mr. Yue to agree to withdraw — to kill by “tabling” — Mr. Yue’s formally submitted rules-change proposal.

When both repeatedly refused, Mr. Priebus urged Mr. Ash to cancel the Rules Committee session at next week’s RNC spring meeting in Hollywood, Fla., a short drive north of Miami. Again, Mr. Ash refused.

Mr. Yue’s rules change would substitute the almost universally known and used Robert’s Rules of Order, which already governs all RNC meetings, for the complex U.S. House of representatives rules that have governed past national conventions. The U.S. House Rules, however, allow the convention chairman virtually dictatorial powers, regardless of the will of the majority of convention delegates.

Unlike the House Rules, under Robert’s Rules, once the names of qualified candidates have been entered on the convention ballot, nominations are permanently closed — unless a majority of delegates votes to reopen them.

Establishment forces on the RNC told the New York Times – as reported on Saturday — that Mr. Priebus’s effort to shut down rules changes would “protect” Mr. Trump. Mr. Yue said the opposite is true in that it would guarantee the convention chairman can reopen nominations for an establishment-backed candidate. Adopting Roberts would make that ploy difficult.

Mr. Ash also revealed that the RNC General Counsel John Ryder of Tennessee convened a conference call Thursday of his “whip” team and instructed its members to lobby RNC members to oppose Mr. Yue’s proposal, at the orders of Mr. Priebus.

RNC Chief Strategist Sean Spicer said in an email to The Washington Times that Mr. Priebus “strongly believes all rules changes should be up to the delegates elected by the grassroots Republican voters.”

RNC General Counsel John Ryder of Tennessee responded to Mr. Ash’s email to Rules members by emailing them Saturday evening that Mr. Yue’s proposed switch to Robert’s Rules is being sent to the members and that it was not sent earlier because it was thought that Mr. Yue wanted to hold it till two days before Thursday’s schedule Rules meeting in Florida.

• Ralph Z. Hallow can be reached at rhallow@gmail.com.

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