donald trump lemon intv bts ctn_00022901.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
donald trump lemon intv bts ctn_00022901.jpg
Now playing
03:42
Donald Trump: 'I have to do what's right'
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein waits to be introduced prior to a press conference at the National Press Club August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC.
PHOTO: Win McNamee/Getty Images
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein waits to be introduced prior to a press conference at the National Press Club August 23, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
01:44
Jill Stein raises millions for recount
Former Democratic US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to staff and supporters at the New Yorker hotel after her defeat in the presidential election November 9, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
Former Democratic US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to staff and supporters at the New Yorker hotel after her defeat in the presidential election November 9, 2016 in New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
Scientists urge Clinton to call for recount
LYNDEN, WA - MAY 07: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech during a rally at the The Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center on May 7, 2016 in Lynden, Washington. Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee following his landslide win in Indiana on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
LYNDEN, WA - MAY 07: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a speech during a rally at the The Northwest Washington Fair and Event Center on May 7, 2016 in Lynden, Washington. Trump became the Republican presumptive nominee following his landslide win in Indiana on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Mills McKnight/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:25
Donald Trump's wild ride
Now playing
01:46
Trump's challenges in the Middle East
donald trump undocumented immigrants crime fact check origwx ty_00013807.jpg
donald trump undocumented immigrants crime fact check origwx ty_00013807.jpg
Now playing
02:47
Fact checking Trump on crimes by immigrants
PHOTO: Mark Makela/Getty Images/Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Now playing
01:26
Trump vs. the tape on Obama and the protester
Now playing
01:28
Trump compares Clinton email probe to Watergate
Members of the Secret Service rush Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump off the stage at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
PHOTO: John Locher/AP
Members of the Secret Service rush Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump off the stage at a campaign rally in Reno, Nev., on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Now playing
01:20
Donald Trump rushed off stage by Secret Service
PHOTO: AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:16
Trump reads letter from Patriot's coach at rally
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during rally at the Atkinson Country Club in Atkinson, New Hampshire on November 4, 2016.
PHOTO: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during rally at the Atkinson Country Club in Atkinson, New Hampshire on November 4, 2016.
Now playing
01:56
Trump on US officials: 'What a group of losers'
donald trump nice and cool pensacola fl bts_00001523.jpg
donald trump nice and cool pensacola fl bts_00001523.jpg
Now playing
00:49
Trump's mantra in campaign's final week: Stay on point
donald trump nice to hillary clinton and democrats orig cm_00000000.jpg
donald trump nice to hillary clinton and democrats orig cm_00000000.jpg
Now playing
01:52
Audio of Trump praising the Clintons and Democrats
cuomo lewandowski hillary clinton email exchange newday_00002327.jpg
cuomo lewandowski hillary clinton email exchange newday_00002327.jpg
Now playing
01:28
Cuomo grills Lewandowski on Clinton email 'hypocrisy'
Now playing
00:10
This video is no longer available
Now playing
01:49
Meet the other Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Story highlights

Top Republican party officials are about to actively prepare for a brokered convention

"No one is quite sure what will happen," said one participant at the meeting

Watch the CNN Republican debate Tuesday, December 15 at 6:00 p.m. ET and 8:30 p.m. ET.

(CNN) —  

Top Republican Party officials have discussed the possibility of a brokered convention, sources told CNN Thursday, a new recognition that the GOP nominating contest could be protracted well into the summer.

At a monthly dinner meeting this week, Republican Party brass decided it would be prudent to plan for a contested convention, which would be triggered if no candidate has enough delegates to win the nomination.

Five sources insisted that while the topic came up during the dinner, it did not dominate the discussion.

Republican strategists have long theorized about the possibility of the brokered convention, which hasn’t happened in decades, but the dinner meeting appears to be the first active planning taken by the GOP to prepare for it.

American president Gerald Ford (left) listens as future American president Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) delivers a speech during the closing session of the Republican National Convention on August 19, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri.
PHOTO: Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
American president Gerald Ford (left) listens as future American president Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004) delivers a speech during the closing session of the Republican National Convention on August 19, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri.

The plans, first reported by The Washington Post, come as 14 Republicans plan to duke it out in the Iowa caucuses, a historically large field that has winnowed slowly. Republicans are worried that – given that many delegates are awarded proportionally – there is a possibility that a brokered convention could happen.

President Gerald Ford and his wife, First Lady Betty Ford, wave to delegates at the Republican National Convention after he was nominated to run for a second term on August 19, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri.
PHOTO: Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images
President Gerald Ford and his wife, First Lady Betty Ford, wave to delegates at the Republican National Convention after he was nominated to run for a second term on August 19, 1976 in Kansas City, Missouri.

A brokered convention occurs when no candidate gets enough of the delegates to secure the nomination on the first vote tally. After that, delegates can be given up to other candidates, shifting the balance.

Another contributing factor to concerns about a brokered convention is a new Republican National Committee rule that requires any GOP nominee win a majority of delegates from eight different states, a hurdle that could potentially be too high in such a fractured field.

“No one is quite sure what will happen,” one of the sources said about the meeting, which was attended by about 20 party leaders, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Despite persistent worries from Donald Trump’s campaign that Republican party officials may try to elbow him out of the nominating contest, the source said Trump, who has sat atop GOP polls for five months, was not the focus of the planning.

It had “nothing, zero, nada to do with Trump except he may be one of the candidates standing at the end,” said the source. “It was not aimed at anyone.”

Ben Carson responded to the report Friday morning, putting out a press release warning he may consider punishing the GOP for any efforts to rig the game against outsider candidates.

“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. “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.”

Tensions over planning for a potentially brokered conventions came amid reports that Republican National Committee officials on Wednesday met with Trump staffers, to discuss logistics – including where staff is allocated, hiring plans and digital strategy.

Sean Spicer, RNC chief strategist and communications director, downplayed the significance of the dinner on Friday.

“It was a dinner where the subject was how the delegate selection process works,” Spicer told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “At the end of that dinner, there were a lot of questions asked.”

As for why the idea came up at all? “It’s great cocktail conversation,” Spicer said.

“This is really, to be honest, with you quite silly.”

Sara Murray contributed to this report.