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GOP lobbyist backs ‘Free the Delegates’ after butting heads with Trump

In this May 26, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mont. (Brennan Linsley / Associated Press)
In this May 26, 2016, file photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings, Mont. (Brennan Linsley / Associated Press)
By Warren Rojas Tribune News Service

WASHINGTON – Lobbyist Jack Burkman on Friday was opening up his Northern Virginia home to what he says is a mounting number of Republican loyalists eager to bankroll a last-minute challenge to presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“You have no idea how many people want to write checks against him,” Burkman suggested.

The conservative firebrand counted himself among the party faithful desperately searching for a way to wrest control of the GOP away from Trump between now and the nominating convention in Cleveland.

Although he publicly denounced Trump early on, Burkman insists that once the real estate mogul trounced the competition in the primaries, he, like Speaker Paul D. Ryan, reluctantly fell in line.

“I tried to be a good Republican and support him,” Burkman said.

As a show of good faith, Burkman said he offered to host a high-profile fundraiser for the first-time candidate.

A face-to-face meeting was arranged. Burkman floated the idea to Trump – and things immediately went south.

“We found out that he’s a total control freak,” Burkman said.

According to Burkman, Trump demanded to be in charge of everything. When Burkman objected, he said Trump’s lawyers hit him with a “long threatening letter.”

That proved to be the final straw.

“Like me, you probably wanted to believe that there has to be something behind the character you see on the screen,” Burkman said of Trump’s legendary bravado. “But there’s not. It’s the rogue on stage.”

Burkman is now throwing his support behind “Free the Delegates,” a counter effort interested in liberating political operatives attending the upcoming convention from strictly adhering to the outcome of their state primaries.

Unbinding said delegates could open up a path for a former contender to still seek the nomination, though Trump has vowed to combat any procedural maneuvering against him.

Just who could theoretically topple Trump remains unclear.

“That’ll happen in the next seven days,” Burkman predicted when asked about the emergence of a potential challenger.

Burkman, for one, stands ready to fight until the very last vote is cast.

“I’ll be at the convention . working with Free the Delegates to make sure Donald Trump is not the nominee,” he vowed.

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