A Republican convention delegate who said she might prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump has been stripped of her slot, according to party officials who say she lied about her residency.
An investigation determined Rina Shah Bharara, 32, is actually a Virginia resident and therefore ineligible to be a D.C. delegate, said Patrick Mara, executive director of the District of Columbia's GOP.
Bharara acknowledged that she has homes in northern Virginia and the District and that she splits her time between the two, but said her District residency is legitimate. She said the residency issue is a pretext for removal by party officials upset she said she might prefer Clinton over Trump.
"This is all because they're trying to appease people from other states in response to my anti-Trump comments,'' she said in a phone interview.
Bharara was one of 19 people elected at the D.C. party convention in March to serve as delegate to the national GOP convention. She ran as a Marco Rubio delegate and was the second-leading vote-getter.
Bharara said the local party has no authority to unilaterally overturn the results of the March election, and that only the credentials committee in Cleveland can strip her of her slot.
Last month, Bharara appeared on Fox News and said that if her choice in November comes down to Clinton and Trump, she said she would consider voting for Clinton, a Democrat.
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In an April 7 interview with The Associated Press that had been previously unpublished, she was even more explicit, saying she would vote for Clinton over Trump.
"I think Hillary would be better for our country,'' she said then. "I personally think she is safer than this renegade crazy person.''
In a phone interview Tuesday, Bharara said she has reflected on the scenario and would now either write in the name of another Republican or possibly even stay home. But that she would still never vote for Trump.
Bharara said local party leaders were unhappy with her and told her she had not walked back her comments sufficiently. On April 28, she wrote to party leaders that she regretted her comments.
"Many awkward, inadvertent statements get made by candidates, voters and sometimes even by delegates in the heat of a contested election,'' she wrote.
After making her comments, Breitbart News wrote stories saying property records and social media accounts showed that Bharara is actually a resident of Reston, Virginia, in the suburbs outside Washington.
Mara said the Breitbart stories prompted the party to do its own investigation. On Thursday, an executive committee of the party took a 14-6 non-binding vote in favor of revoking Bharara's slot and installing an alternate. Ultimately, though, the decision to strip her of her slot rested with party chairman Jose Cunningham, Mara said.
Bharara's removal is for "residency and residency alone,'' Mara said. "We have other delegates who have been outspoken against Trump and we're not calling for their removal.''