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Anti-Trump Rebels Not Part of Negotiations Between RNC, Activists

It was not a broken printer that forced a four-hour delay of the RNC Rules Committee meeting.
The Quicken Loans Arena is covered in signage in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention on July 13, 2016, in Cleveland.Gene J. Puskar / AP

CLEVELAND, Ohio - It was not a broken printer that forced the delay of a meeting at the Republican National Convention Rules Committee, it was closed-door meetings among a small group of grassroots activists, anti-Trump delegates, the Trump campaign and Republican Party officials.

As the committee kicked off its business Thursday morning, chairwoman Enid Mickelson announced that a malfunctioning printer delayed the proceedings for just "ten minutes" and that the four-hour delay was due to private meetings to resolve potentially convention-busting issues.

The grassroots activists, represented by Ken Cuccinelli, a supporter of Sen. Ted Cruz, wants to alter the Republican Party primary in 2020 to give more power to Republican activists. The RNC wants to preserve the power of the Republican Party and the Trump campaign wants to win the nomination without chaos.

Another faction of delegates, led by Kendal Unruh, who is leading the effort to deny Donald Trump the nomination, was considered a threat to disruption, but her effort was not the driving force behind the delay.

"They don't have the votes," RNC spokesperson Sean Spicer said, diminishing her negotiating power. The Trump campaign has deployed whips to ensure that Trump's nomination is not at risk.

Unruh, however, insists she still has the votes. Anti-Trump forces are hoping to alter the rules governing the convention that would give Trump opponents more power on the floor of the convention. If that fails they are working to get the support of 28 delegates, or one-fourth of the committee, to force their issue on the the floor of the entire convention next week.

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Instead the groups were meeting to hash out a deal to circumvent hours of public dissatisfaction in the meeting that finalizes rules to run the Republican convention and the Republican primary process. Trump's top aide Paul Manafort and the RNC's leader, Reince Priebus, were involved in the meetings, indicating that they are taking seriously efforts to disrupt the process.

Ken Cuccinelli, Sen. Ted Cruz's former delegate operations leader, is demanding a series of changes that would directly impact the primary process and how the Republican Party is run by taking away power from the RNC chair and give it to the grassroots.

For instance, he and his allies want closed primaries, instead of allowing Democrats and independents voting in Republican primaries. But no deal has been reached, sources tell NBC News.

There was a private meeting with Sen Mike Lee of Utah, a member of the Rules Committee, Unruh and Ken Cuccinelli just let out, and a source from the Anti-Trump effort who was in the room, says they had a separate meeting but it was "not about the conscience clause" at all.

This debate is scheduled for hours of public debate over the rules, which has now been suspended as top GOP insiders try to cut a deal.

Jacob Soboroff also contributed to this report.