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First Read: A Nation on Edge

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
IMAGE: gunshots rang out following a protest and rally in Dallas held over police shootings
Police swarmed downtown Dallas Thursday July 7, after gunshots rang out following a protest and rally held over police shootings in other parts of the U.S.NBC DFW

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

A nation on edge

It’s been a tragic week in America. Police officers were caught on video killing African Americans in Louisiana and Minnesota. Then, during what had been a peaceful protest in Dallas over those deaths, snipers last night opened fire on 12 police officers, killing five. “It was the deadliest day for law enforcement since 9/11,” per NBC News. And it’s all put this nation on edge -- and looking to its elected leaders and presidential candidates. President Obama, who is in Poland for the NATO summit, has addressed these tragedies twice in the span of 12 hours. Around 6:30 pm ET last night, he discussed the two African Americans who had died. And at 5:00 am ET this morning, Obama condemned the sniper shooting in Dallas, calling it a “vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement.” Also this morning, Donald Trump tweeted, “Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country.” Hillary Clinton, who already has spoken out against the killing of the two African Americans, has postponed a planned rally with Joe Biden but still plans to attend a convention of the AME Church Friday, where she had been set to discuss the earlier shootings. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings offered this advice on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” for all politicians: watch your words.

Three ways Republicans could dump Trump in Cleveland

The Republican convention begins in 10 days, and it’s highly likely that it plays out like all modern conventions -- as a coronation for Donald Trump. But there’s also a chance that GOP delegates opposed to Trump could create an uprising that could jeopardize his nomination, even though Trump currently holds 1,541 delegates according to NBC’s count, more than the 1,237 needed for a majority. Here are three ways these opponents could dump Trump in Cleveland.

  • Unbinding the delegates: As the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week, anti-Trump rebels are hoping to win over 28 of the 112 Rules Committee members (25%) who will be meeting on Thursday next week to force the full convention to consider whether to unbind the delegates -- allowing them to vote for whomever they want. Republican super-lawyer Ben Ginsberg explains that there’s a higher concentration of Trump loyalists on the Rules Committee than on the floor, so if anti-Trump forces can get 28 votes to force a minority report, the vote on the floor could be interesting. “I think there is a chance, but it’s a remote one,” Ginsberg said Thursday on MSNBC.
  • Requiring a supermajority to capture the nomination:There’s a significant downside to this push to unbind the delegates: It essentially invalidates the five months of Republican primaries and caucuses used to choose the delegates. And many of these GOP leaders could find this move unseemly and undemocratic. So another way to stop Trump at the convention would be for the Rules Committee to vote to require a supermajority -- instead of a simple majority -- to win the GOP nomination.
  • Allowing delegates to abstain: A third way how anti-Trump delegates could dump Trump is by abstaining from their vote to keep Trump below the 1,237 number needed for a majority on the roll-call vote. Ginsberg says that whether a delegate can abstain from his or her vote on a first ballot is likely to come down to a ruling by the chair.

The smart bet is that none of scenarios is successful. Most Republican delegates, by nature, aren’t rebels. They’re go-along-get-along party leaders who probably aren’t eager to overturn the will of the voters. But keep an eye on two things over the next week: 1) whether Trump continues to veer off message, and 2) poll numbers in key Senate races. If these delegates are 100% convinced Trump would be a down-ballot disaster for Republicans, watch out starting Thursday.

Veepstakes Watch

Check out the latest installment of VP Watch hereNBC’s Monica Alba reports that Hillary Clinton is ramping up her search, with intensive meetings with top aides at her Washington home Thursday… Elizabeth Warren is urging progressives to keep up opposition to TPP… Bernie Sanders praised Warren, but was cool on Tim Kaine in an interview with Bloomberg Politics… Kaine headlined a fundraiser for Clinton… NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reported that Chris Christie will travel with Donald Trump on his trip to Florida… Christie won’t have to give up his personal cell phone to two former officials who say it would help them in their defense in Bridgegate charges… Mike Pence urged Cruz to back Donald Trump, though Cruz stopped short of an endorsement… POLITICO reports on Trump’s consideration of former DIA head Michael Flynn… reports that Trump is “unlikely” to pick Christie… Newt Gingrich said on FOX last night that if offered the job “Callista and I would feel compelled to serve the country.”

On the trail

Both Clinton and Trump have called off major campaign events in the wake of the Dallas shootings, although Clinton is still planning to address a convention of the African Methodist Episcopal church in Philadelphia. Don’t forget to check out the political unit’s rolling minute-to-minute coverage of all the latest 2016 developments at the On the Trail liveblog at