Ben Carson is threatening to leave the Republican Party and launch an independent White House bid if reports that party leaders preparing for a brokered convention next year in Cleveland are true, saying that the party will be destroyed if its leaders "subvert the will of the voters."
"If the leaders of the Republican Party want to destroy the party, they should continue to hold meetings like the one described in The Washington Post
this morning," Carson said in a statement released by his campaign
, reports The Hill.
"If this was the beginning of a plan to subvert the will of the voters and replace it with the will of the political elite, I assure you Donald Trump will not be the only one leaving the party," he said.
Carson is concerned that party officials will rally around a candidate of their choice and exclude him.
"The party should not be doing anything that is deceptive and under the covers," Carson told reporters in Burlington, Iowa
Sources, who were not named in The Post's story, said that 20 senior party officials, along with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, attended a private dinner on Monday to outline the party's convention strategy.
Priebus and the Kentucky senator remained silent, the sources said, but other party members argued that establishment party members should start preparing for a fight on the floor if Trump maintains his hold on the race and sweeps next year's primaries.
Generally, most delegates must support the candidate they chose in their states' primaries or elections, reported The Post, but that would lift if no nominee is chosen, and could lead to a "brokered" convention where deal-making takes place to attract delegates to another candidate.
Carson said in his statement that if party leaders are already trying to manipulate the vote, "every voter who is standing for change must know they are being betrayed. I won't stand for it."
Further, he predicted that if the party's elite try to manipulate the convention, next year's event in Cleveland may be the party's last.
"I am prepared to lose fair and square, as I am sure is Donald," Carson said in his statement, "But I will not sit by and watch a theft. I intend on being the nominee. If I am not, the winner will have my support. If the winner isn't our nominee then we have a massive problem."
Trump is continuing to hint at a possible third-party bid, despite signing a pledge earlier this year not to.
On Thursday, the front-runner told Fox News that he has "lots of options open" if he's not treated fairly by the party
, but at the same time, "did you ever hear of a Republican leading by 20 and 22 and 25 points, and all of a sudden I'm going to say, 'oh, I'm going to return as an independent?' It doesn't work that way. No, I'm running — I'm running as a Republican."
But earlier this week, Trump told Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on their syndicated show that he might pursue an independent run
if the GOP does not treat him fairly.
He has also said he's preparing his strategy, in the event a brokered convention occurs, reports The Hill.
RNC officials met with the Trump campaign on Wednesday in New York to discuss what operations would look like if Trump wins the nomination, reports NBC News,
with an insider reporting that several top RNC members were there.
Trump did not attend the meeting, but his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski represented his camp, the insider said.
The RNC confirmed the meeting, but said that the officials are meeting with all the campaigns to discuss the party's efforts, and will continue through the primary season.
Conservative radio host William J. Bennett told The Post this week that the pre-convention situation at this time resembles what was going on with the 1976 convention, in which Ronald Reagan challenged then-President Gerald Ford, but called the matter "more intense" this time around.
"People shouldn't be panicking, and I think things will calm down when people in the party leadership realize there are core truths to what Trump is saying and he's not trying to take down the party," Bennett said. "For many conservatives, his candidacy is a positive disruption. Let things run their course."
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