Trump Tweets: If Charlotte Can't Fully Host RNC, GOP Will Move Convention
Updated 4 p.m.
President Trump tweeted Monday morning that unless North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper guarantees that the GOP can "fully occupy" the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, the GOP will be "reluctantly forced" to find another home for the Republican National Convention.
"In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat state governor would allow the space," Trump wrote. "Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. They must immediately given an answer ... as to whether or not the space will be allowed to fully occupied."
I love the Great State of North Carolina, so much so that I insisted on having the Republican National Convention in Charlotte at the end of August. Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2020
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said two weeks that the GOP is fully committed to Charlotte.
But she said early July is a key date for convention planners. If Cooper's public health mandates are still in place and would restrict the convention, then the GOP would start to rethink what the RNC looks like. She said the event might be broken into smaller venues and she left the door open to holding parts of it outside.
But it appears Trump is not waiting until early July.
Cooper on Friday moved the state into Phase 2 of reopening, which lasts until June 26. But under Phase 2, it's almost impossible to hold an RNC in Charlotte.
The state prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people indoors and North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said last week that she would consider convention delegates to be spectators. That means there could only be 10 delegates inside the Spectrum Center if the convention were to be held today.
Cohen also said a medical breakthrough could pave the way for a normal convention, such as a vaccine or drugs to treat the disease. She also said that large-scale testing for delegates and guests could be an option.
The governor's office said in a statement Monday that the state is "working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte."
It said it's "relying on data and science to protect our state's public health and safety."
The city of Charlotte has said it will continue spending money to prepare for the convention, and the local host committee has said it's raised roughly $50 million of the $70 million it's required to raise for the convention.
Vice President Mike Pence said on "Fox & Friends" Monday morning that Trump is just trying to prepare.
“What you hear the president say today is a very reasonable request of the governor of North Carolina,” Pence said. “We all want to be in Charlotte. We love North Carolina. But having a sense now is absolutely essential because of the immense preparations that are involved.”
Pence said that if Cooper can’t say that the convention can take place, the GOP will look elsewhere.
“And if needs be, moving the national convention to a state that’s farther along in reopening,” he said.
The Florida Republican Party said it would welcome the chance to host the RNC.
Charlotte Officials Respond
On Monday afternoon, the city and county governments said in a statement that they are working to plan for the RNC "while respecting national and state guidance regarding the pandemic."
"We are working with stakeholders to develop guidelines for several large events planned for Charlotte in the coming months, including the RNC, and anticipate providing that guidance in June," the Charlotte-Mecklenburg statement reads.
With the health and safety of our residents and visitors being the top priority, the city of Charlotte will continue to follow guidance from Governor Cooper and public health professionals in determining the best and safest way to host the Republican National Convention.— Mayor Vi Lyles (@CLTMayor) May 25, 2020
Republican City Council member Ed Driggs doesn’t think the RNC could be moved.
“You can’t replicate the work that has gone on for almost two years in Charlotte to prepare for the convention over a span of three months,” he said.
But could Trump reinvent the RNC, just as he has remade other parts of the presidency?
Delegates could come to Charlotte to formally nominate him – possibly in small groups in different venues – while Trump finds states that would allow him to hold campaign-style rallies.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump has mused about holding the convention in a hotel ballroom in Florida.
Charlotte’s contract with the GOP doesn’t allow the Republican National Committee to walk away, but fighting the president in court would arguably a moot point.
Charlotte City Attorney Patrick Baker says the city’s contract with the RNC doesn’t require the GOP to bring a certain number of people – or even the president.
“There’s nothing in that document that talks about the number of people that have to be here, the number of beds that they are going to take up,” Baker said. “I don’t think there is a reference to the president of the United States.”
Charlotte has been awarded a $50 million convention security grant from the Department of Justice. The city has already started buying equipment for the convention with the expectation that it will be reimbursed from that grant.
The city won’t say what it’s bought and how much it’s spent so far, citing its security plan.
But would Trump approve reimbursing the city if there’s no convention – or a convention that’s a fraction of the original size?
“When we did formally accept we were legally entitled to rely on it,” Driggs said. “We would go to court if they tried to withhold that money.”
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