In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump predicted riots if he wins the greatest number of delegates to the party’s July convention but is nonetheless denied the GOP nomination. Today, Roger Stone, the former dirty tricks man for Richard Nixon, is out with an article that seems designed to prime the pump for just that sort of unrest, alleging the existence of a plot to deny Trump the nomination even if he comes to the convention with the most pledged delegates.
Writing on the website InfoWars.com, which is maintained by popular radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, Stone claims to reveal a plot by the “Republican Establishment” to derail a Trump nomination.
“Despite his historic run in the primaries, Trump will never, repeat never, get the nomination if this bunch can stop him,” Stone wrote. “Forget about them conceding Trump the victory once he gets to the magic 1237 (Fifty percent of the available delegates). They’ve cooked up a strategy to be employed at all costs to steal delegates from Trump so that he’ll fall below the 1237 on the first ballot, and then, before the second ballot to present one of their group (Mitt Romney, call your office) as the Savior of the Grand Old Party.”
Stone is a man who knows from conspiracy theories. His four books include one making the case that President Lyndon Johnson led a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. His most recent work alleges that former Florida governor and former presidential candidate Jeb Bush, as well as his family, which includes two living former presidents, is part of a years-long criminal conspiracy.
Trump and Stone have a confusing relationship. The former Nixon man, who has been a Republican campaign adviser for decades, was originally working for the Trump campaign this summer. However, in a weird back-and-forth in early August, Stone left the campaign, saying he quit, while Trump insisted he had been fired. Nevertheless, Stone has been serving as a Trump surrogate in the right wing media world, and in the brief bio under his story on InfoWars, he describes himself as “a close confidante” of Trump.
In his article, Stone predicts that the theft of the nomination from Trump will go down this way: The party elites will challenge the legitimacy of delegates allocated to Trump using the arcane Rules of the Republican Party. For example, Stone says, Party officials will cite Rule 16 (D), which can be read as saying that delegates cannot be elected in states that have an open primary. Trump has won the majority of states with open primaries and Stone asserts confidently, “The GOP bigwigs plan on challenging Trump’s delegates from those states.”
For one, it’s not really clear that Rule 16 (D) says what Stone claims it does, and for another, Stone offers zero evidence for the existence of this plot. Likewise, he offers no support beyond his own assertion for his claim that other plans are in the works to fiddle with the vote count in Missouri, or to challenge the rules that bind delegates to Trump on the first ballot.
But offering evidence isn’t really the point here. Stirring up anger against an invisible elite is.
If Trump comes to the convention in Cleveland this July with a lead in delegates but not a majority, both Trump and now Stone are clearly trying to create an atmosphere in which attempting to wrest the nomination away from him, even by methods within the rules, will be seen as a betrayal of his supporters.
But unlike, say, the 1948 Democratic Convention, when angry Southerners walked out of the convention out of a sense of betrayal over the party’s civil rights plank, Trump has been suggesting something that would feel a whole lot more like the riot-scarred Democratic Convention of 1968, when police and protesters had running battles in the city streets.
Stone, to be clear, is not calling for or advocating violence in his article for InfoWars. He is merely helping to stoke the flames of anger and betrayal that Trump is threatening to unleash if he is denied his prize in Cleveland.