CLEVELAND — A chaotic opening set the scene of the Republican National Convention as delegates opposed to Donald Trump and strong-armed pressure from the Republican National Committee erupted in protests on the floor of the convention.
Ultimately anti-Trump delegates failed to advance their objectives, but only after an aggressive whip operation by the Trump campaign and the RNC, an effort that only elevated the concerns of skeptical party activists.
The latest machinations among anti-Trump delegates won’t deny Trump the nomination, but it was a public display of opposition that is unlikely to soften as the convention still has three-and-a-half days remaining.
Here’s what happened:
A majority in nine delegations – Iowa, Washington, Minnesota, Colorado, Maine, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming and Washington, D.C., - successfully submitted a petition to the secretary of the convention, Susie Hudson, allowing for a full roll call on the adoption of the arcane rules package instead of a voice vote. They wanted to defeat the rules package because it explicitly says that delegates are bound to vote for the winner of their primary. Many delegates want to "vote their conscience."
When it was time for the delegates to vote on the rules package, Enid Mickelson, the co-chair of the Rules Committee, ignored their effort. Protests erupted on the floor with chants of “call the roll” erupting. The convention heads cut of the sound of the microphones, silencing states that wanted recognition, further infuriating protesting delegates.
After a more than five-minute unannounced break, Steve Womack, deputy chair of the convention emerged and sought recognition of a delegate from Utah. The Utah delegate called for a roll call vote on adoption of the rules.
Womack said that after successfully submitting support for a roll call by delegates from nine states, three states withdrew, leaving opponents without the support of the seven-state threshold necessary to call for a roll call.
Womack immediately moved on to the next agenda item, which was adoption of the Republican platform.
Ken Cuccinelli, chair of the Virginia delegation and helping to lead efforts to change party rules, especially closing primaries so that only Republicans can vote, threw down his credentials in disgust and walked away from the microphone. His delegation, however, forced him back to the microphone, telling him that he needs to stand up and fight.
Protests erupted again and much of the Colorado delegation walked out with others considering walking out at some point later in the convention, potentially during the roll call confirming the nomination of Trump.
"It was the most disgusting display of parliamentary abuse that I've ever seen in the 14 conventions that I have attended starting in 1964," Virginia delegate Morton Blackwell said. "It was outrageous."
The RNC gave no details to which states withdrew or showed any evidence, leaving activists skeptical. But NBC News has learned that Iowa, Maine and D.C. are three states that withdrew after an aggressive whip campaign by Trump and the RNC.
Cuccinelli said that party efforts to strong-arm delegates were "out of bounds."
"They were telling people we’re going to ruin your political life in Washington, in Virginia," an upset Cuccinelli said.
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a delegate supporting the protests' efforts, said that the Trump team and members of the RNC kept telling delegates that they need unity.
“What that means is you got to stand down,” Lee said. “You got to agree with us. That’s not unity, that’s coercion masquerading and unity.”
Ben Barringer, an Iowa delegate, decried the Trump and RNC’s intense tactics to quell an uprising.
“We don’t need to come in unified. We need to leave unified,” Barringer said of the convention process.
He added that denying delegates the ability to voice their concerns will do nothing to bring in skeptics.
“You need to give us our voice and let us be defeated honestly,” he added.