- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

CLEVELAND — Donald Trump put his fingerprints on the new Republican Party platform, which embraces his border wall and disavows bad trade deals — but Trump skeptics won their own fights by protecting conservative language on religious liberty and gay rights.

The 112-member Platform Committee approved the ideological blueprint Tuesday, reaching an uneasy detente between Trump forces and religious conservatives who had questioned whether they could make peace with their presumptive presidential nominee.

“I think Trump wants as little controversy as possible,” said Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project. “I think he just wants this to be smooth sailing to where he can’t be blamed for anything. He wants a united party. He doesn’t want a divided party.”

In the end, each side walked away with something to show its base.

The platform calls for a “border wall” that “must cover the entirety of the southern border,” and it calls for screening of immigrants coming from countries that could pose a risk to the U.S. — a softer version of Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on admitting Muslims.

Delegates also softened language from previous platforms that embraced a robust free trade policy, saying “we need better negotiated trade agreements that put America first.”

“His imprint is on the platform,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Trump supporter and member of the Platform Committee. “There has been a real effort by members of the Platform Committee to make sure the platform is consistent with the Trump message, and that hasn’t been that difficult to accomplish because his message is a conservative one.

“This undoubtedly is the most conservative Republican platform that has ever been adopted,” Mr. Kobach said.

Social conservatives, meanwhile, declared victory after thwarting efforts to soften the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage and to include references to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, an evangelical group, said that he was “very” satisfied with the final product.

“I didn’t think it was possible, but I think it is probably more conservative than what we had in 2012,” said Mr. Perkins, a Louisiana delegate.

He applauded the Trump campaign and the RNC for letting the delegates do their work without interfering.

“I have been involved in a lot of these, and there is a lot of strong-arming that goes on. And it didn’t happen here,” he said. “They let the elected delegates do their work.”

The platform was a tangible sign that Mr. Trump and some of his skeptics are eager to find a way to coexist within the GOP.

But not everyone has conceded, with anti-Trump forces planning to mount a challenge in the Rules Committee later this week, hoping to free delegates to vote for someone else to be the nominee.

The #NeverTrump forces said they were aided this week by a federal judge’s ruling that Virginia and other states cannot legally punish convention delegates who refuse to vote for the state’s primary winner — in Virginia’s case, Mr. Trump.

Now the anti-Trump delegates need at least 28 of the Rules Committee’s 112 members to support their plan to free delegates. If they can earn those votes, they’ll be able to present their “minority” option on the convention floor next week.

“I am confident the minority report will pass,” said Kendal Unruh, a Colorado delegate. “The recent ruling in [Virginia] gave a shot of Red Bull to our movement by assuring the delegates they didn’t need to fear wearing orange.”

Others, however, have said the anti-Trump fight is spent, and Mr. Trump will easily win the nomination next week.

Some of the more intense fights over the platform centered on efforts to water down language endorsing the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, and on an amendment specifying gays as among the targets of Islamist terrorism.

“If you do support me and people like me, then can you not at the very least stand up for our right to not be killed along with these other groups by people who want to bring harm not only to our country, but to people based on their identity?” Rachel Hoff, an openly gay member from Washington, D.C., who sits on the committee, told her fellow members.

Ms. Hoff’s opponents on the committee said they opposed singling out any group and rejected the amendment.

Afterward, Ms. Hoff said Mr. Trump’s hands-off approach raises questions about whether he is an ally of the LGBT community.

“That is the big question: Is he an ally? Because he has made statements on the bathroom issue after the Orlando attack that indicate that he may be an ally on these issues,” she said. “But when the rubber met the road, it didn’t seem that there was actual leadership in advancing those beliefs of his.”

The committee sifted through an avalanche of amendments, with members wrestling over amendments related to the congressional oversight of the District of Columbia and on full voting rights for the territories and American Samoa.

Members called for an audit of the Pentagon, making the tax code so simple that the IRS can be abolished, and for ensuring there is “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel.

They also talked about the differences between “illegal immigrant” and “illegal alien,” and weighed the pros and cons of replacing the word “unborn” with “preborn” and “restroom” with “bathroom.”

“The Trump people aren’t looking for a fight. They are looking to say let people get their voices, and let this platform be what it is,” said Ed Martin, president of Eagle Forum. “It has been pretty amicable.”

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