President Trump confirms he will give his RNC speech from the White House lawn, after his campaign considered locations like Gettysburg and the Liberty Bell.
President Trump confirmed on Thursday he intends on giving his Republican National Convention speech from the White House lawn, according to The Post.
Though he considered locations like in front of the Gettysburg battlefield or at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, Trump committed to delivering his speech from his own residence.
“I’ll probably be giving my speech at the White House because it is a great place. It’s a place that makes me feel good, it makes the country feel good,” Trump said.
Last month Trump needed to scrap his plans to host the RNC celebration in Jacksonville, Florida, as the state battles surging new cases of coronavirus.
In an interview with The Post, Trump said he would visit Gettysburg at a “later date” but felt the White House lawn would be suitable as attendees can follow social distancing guidelines and also because it would be easiest for law enforcement and Secret Service.
“We’d do it possibly outside on one of the lawns, we have various lawns, so we could have it outside in terms of the China virus,” said Trump. “... We could have quite a group of people. It’s very big, a very big lawn. We could have a big group of people,”
Earlier this month, RNC planners floated the idea of Trump delivering his acceptance speech on the South Lawn, a part of the West Wing. The Washington Post spoke to a Republican familiar with RNC planning who said the Trump campaign would repay any cost incurred by the government to host RNC events.
But the campaign’s decision to use the executive residence drew backlash from those who fear its legal and ethical repercussions.
“Whether it’s legally wrong or ethically out of the question, it shouldn’t even have been something that was expressed,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
“For the President of the United States to degrade once again the White House, as he has done over and over again, by saying he’s going to completely politicize it, is something that should be rejected right out of hand,” she continued.
Under federal law, government employees and property cannot be used for political purposes. The Hatch Act prevents federal officials from certain forms of political activity at work, except for the President and Vice President.
The act also does not apply to rooms in the White House which are not regularly used for executive purposes. Past presidents used other spaces outside the West Wing in the White House for campaign meetings; the Obama administration used the Map Room, which drew scrutiny from members of the House of Representatives in 2011.
Though neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence would be violating federal laws by having his RNC speech televised from the White House, they could be putting other employees at risk of doing so.
Richard Painter, who was the White House’s chief ethics lawyer under Bush, said, “He may not be violating the Hatch Act, but he is ordering other people to… At a certain point you are using White House resources, and that is a violation of the Hatch Act.”
Kedric L. Payne, the senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, said that this is another example of Trump “exposing gaps in the law that must be closed.” He also brought up points of consideration that would challenge Trump’s RNC plans.
“Government employees cannot wear or display campaign material at the White House,” he said. “The RNC would have a difficult time arguing that they can reimburse for the expenses, because how do you calculate such things as the fair market value of the White House lawn?”
But for Trump, the convenience of giving his speech from the White House outweighs the complications it poses. He said it would be a “tremendous saving in cost” since he already lives there. He also finds Gettysburg to be too hot come late summer.
“We’re going to be doing something terrific at Gettysburg but when it gets a little bit cooler because now it’s, you know, it’s August 27, so that’s pretty hot out there,” he said.
The Republican convention will run from August 24 to 27 and the Democratic convention will run from August 17 to 20.
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