By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Party chief Reince Priebus expressed confidence on Saturday that security will be able to handle any protests at the party’s convention later this month in Cleveland, where Donald Trump is to be nominated as the Republican presidential candidate.
Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Reuters in a telephone interview that the tragic shootings in Texas, Minnesota and Louisiana in recent days may lead to a more peaceful discourse in general across the country.
Cleveland police on Friday tightened their security plan for the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in the wake of the shootings. They also increased surveillance and intelligence operations.
The outpouring of grief among Americans after the bloodshed could lead to a “more understanding and polite discourse and a feeling of support in communities and with police,” Priebus said, and that this same feeling of understanding could also take place in Cleveland.
“We’ve been working really hard on security. I’m very confident that things are going to go very well in Cleveland. The police are there in full force to be helpful to protesters, but also to keep the event safe and free from incident,” he said.
Priebus, who has worked to rally Republicans behind Trump, said the convention should serve as a vehicle to unify more party loyalists behind the New York businessman whose incendiary rhetoric and policy positions have troubled some Republicans.
Priebus added that the “never Trump” movement has ebbed and that he did not believe any rebellion among Republican delegates at the convention against Trump would succeed.
“It’s one thing to be unhappy because your person didn’t win. I get that part. But it’s another step to now say because I don’t like the way this is going, I’m going to take something away from someone who won it fair and square. There’s just not a lot of people that are willing to do that,” he said.
Priebus, who has privately counseled Trump, said it is important for him to continue making the case against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton after the FBI concluded she had been “extremely careless” in handling some sensitive emails as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
Trump, at a campaign rally in Ohio on Wednesday, had sharply criticized Clinton at the outset, but then diverted to attacking the news media for how it is covering his campaign.
“In a 45-minute rally, he spent a long time on Hillary and I think it’s OK for him to divert here and there, but I do think focusing on Hillary is important and a vision for America is important,” Priebus said.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by G Crosse)