RNC Lawyers Look For Legal Avenues To Dump Trump

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Lawyers at the Republican National Committee are assessing what legal remedies, if any, could allow the committee to remove Donald Trump as the party’s standard bearer.

Though the Manhattan mogul would almost certainly have to cooperate in any effort to replace him as the nominee, an open-ended clause in the committee’s official rules could allow committee officials to depose him, Politico reports.

The text of rule 9(a) of the Rules of the Republican National Committee reads:

The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

“RNC has an army of lawyers right now looking at Rule 9 and ballot questions,” an anonymous GOP strategist in touch with the committee told Politico. (RELATED: Here Are The Republicans Calling On Trump To Withdraw [VIDEO])

The rule empowers the RNC to take action only in the event of “death, declination, or otherwise.” Since Trump has indicated he will not step aside, and presuming he has no plans to die before November, any argument a defiant committee could make would turn on the meaning of the phrase “or otherwise.” It’s possible that the party could assert its own definition of the clause, and remove Trump on its own authority. Trump, in turn, could bring a cause of action against the committee in federal court. In that case, the RNC could respond that the courts have no power to police internal party rules and call for a dismissal on jurisdictional grounds.

That said, a narrow reading of the entire rule probably precludes this course of action. A reasonable lawyer could conclude that the clause “or otherwise” must be read in connection to the proceeding clause “by reason of death, declination…” and therefore must be interpreted to refer to a scenario arising from the nominee’s death or resignation, as opposed to a backdoor mechanism the RNC may use to effectuate a palace coup should it sour on its candidate.

“Let’s be clear here: The rule is intended to fill vacancies, not to lay the groundwork for a replacement,” Josh Putnam a University of George political lecturer who studies party rules told the Washington Post. “Some have speculated that ‘otherwise’ is ambiguous. Taken out of context it is. However, under the provisions for filling vacancies, it clearly fills in any gap between death and declination. And that was the intention.”

Rule 9(a) issues aside, ballots in many states have already been printed, and early voting is already under way in jurisdictions around the country. The states are not under any obligation to print new ballots should the RNC select a new nominee.

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