Rule 9: How Does the RNC Rule Work if Donald Trump Drops Out?

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A screenshot from Donald Trump’s videotaped statement on Friday night. (Twitter)

What happens if the Donald Trump quits the presidential race or the Republican National Committee wants to force him out?

Enter the arcane RNC rule: “Rule 9.”

Trump insists, of course, that he is not going anywhere. But does the RNC’s Rule 9 allow them to oust him anyway? It’s complicated.

Legal experts say that RNC rule 9 allows the Republican National Committee “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” and the party can “reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.”

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The Washington Post reports that the RNC can’t just call Trump and tell him to leave the race. They have to follow the RNC rules.

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RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. (Getty)

However, some experts believe that there is enough ambiguous language in Rule 9 to allow the RNC at least an argument for deposing Trump from the ticket even if he doesn’t want to go. Trump has insisted Saturday that there is “zero chance” he will quit the race, but a growing chorus of top Republicans is demanding he step aside for running mate Mike Pence.

The furor erupted after The Washington Post unearthed a 2005 videotape showing Trump making crass comments about women to then Access Hollywood host Billy Bush.

The Daily Beast says that some experts consider the word “otherwise” in the rule ambiguous enough that RNC officials might be exploring whether it would allow them to boot Trump, but the intent of Rule 9 was really designed to replace a candidate who was ill or deceased.

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Donald Trump with his 1990 Playboy Magazine issue at a Raleigh campaign stop in July 2016. (Getty)

However, ABC News reported back in August, when dropping out speculation also raged after Trump’s criticism of gold star father Khizr Khan, that “officials say there is no mechanism for forcing him to withdraw his nomination” and “Trump would have to quit on his own.”

Thus, this is a complex and uncertain question that could revolve around the meaning of and intent behind the word “otherwise.”

Politico reports that top RNC lawyers have been studying Rule 9 all weekend but concluded Trump would have to voluntarily quit. However, the legal analysis is still underway, Politico said.

The bottom line: It’s an open question whether the rules allow the RNC to boot Trump as its nominee or Trump would have to withdraw on his own volition. And it’s very late in the game to start figuring that out because early voting has started and ballot access rules would make it tough, if not difficult, for someone else to get on the ballot.

Let’s say Trump quits or the RNC finds a way to replace him. What happens then? says the rules allow Republicans two choices in the case of such scenarios: They can reconvene their convention and have the delegates vote again or the replacement choice would be made by “the 168-member committee” of the RNC.

That committee “could decide with each member getting a portion of votes based on the population of the state they represent. Number 2 seems like a more likely scenario,” reports Lawnewsz.

That means 168 high-level Republican party officials would possibly be choosing a new nominee.

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