Trump gives North Carolina governor ‘a week’ to decide if RNC can move forward as planned
President Trump escalated tensions with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday over the Republican National Convention, giving the Democratic governor only a week to decide if the event can move forward, with full attendance, as planned.
Trump said from the Rose Garden that the Republican party needed “a fast decision” from Cooper on whether the party could hold its convention with “the doors open,” adding that the governor has “been acting very, very slowly and very suspiciously.”
“We have to know before we spend millions and millions of dollars on an arena to make it magnificent for the convention and we have tremendous people,” Trump said. “Now, if the governor can’t tell us very soon, unfortunately, we’ll have no choice…If he feels that he’s not going to do it, all he has to do is tell us and then we’ll have to pick another location, and I will tell you a lot of locations want it.”
“Within a week, certainly, we have to know,” the president added.Earlier on Tuesday, Cooper said that he is prioritizing public health over politics in the planning for the convention, after Trump raised the possibility of moving the event out of Charlotte.
“I’m not surprised by anything that I see on Twitter,” the Democratic chief executive said during a COVID-19 press briefing. “I will say that it’s okay for political conventions to be political, but pandemic response cannot be.”
“I supported having the convention in North Carolina. But we have to put the health and safety of North Carolinians as the guiding star in this process, and we hope to continue the discussions and look forward to those discussions with the RNC later on this weekend and into next week,” he later added. Cooper warned that it is still too early to give the president the assurances he demanded about “whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied.”
“Already, we’ve been in talks with the RNC about the kind of convention that they would need to run, and the kind of options that we need on the table. We’re talking about something that’s going to happen three months from now, and we don’t know what our situation is going to be regarding COVID-19 in North Carolina,” he said.
“Everybody wants to get back into action soon, but I think everybody knows that we have to take some steps to make sure that people are protected because this virus is still going to be with us in August,” Cooper added. For months, Republican leaders’ public posture has been that the party’s national convention, where Trump will be formally nominated in August, is “full steam ahead.” But on Memorial Day, the president appeared to hamstring convention planning by threatening to pull the event from Charlotte.
“Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August,” Trump tweeted, adding that he has “love” for the battleground state before shifting the fault onto Cooper.
Trump, taking aim at a political rival, laid blame squarely on the state’s Democratic governor for being in a “shutdown mood” that could preclude “full attendance” at the event during the coronavirus crisis.
“They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”
Vice President Mike Pence echoed the president on Monday, telling Fox & Friends that if the state doesn’t move quicker to reopen its economy, the party is considering moving to an alternate venue in a state “that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that, that we can gather there.” Despite urging that the party wants to keep the convention in Charlotte, some of the other possible states floated by Pence as potential hosts for the convention included Georgia, Texas and Florida.
Trump later wrote in another tweet that he has “zero interest” in moving the quadrennial gathering to his resort in Doral, which sits just outside of Miami, ruling out at least one Trump-owned venue in Florida. He also reiterated that he “would like to stay in N.C.
Health officials in North Carolina are now seeking more clarity on planning for the event, requesting “a written plan” from the RNC on how to “approach the COVID-19 safety aspects of the convention” in a new letter obtained by ABC News’ Raleigh affiliate.
The letter, from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen to RNC CEO Marcia Lee Kelly, comes in response to the president’s tweet on Monday, and confirms that the RNC and state officials in North Carolina were in talks about convention planning as recent as Friday.
“We also discussed on Friday the need to plan for different levels of impact of COVID-19 so the RNC convention logistics could be tailored to the COVID-19 situation we find ourselves in at the end of August.
“Cohen urges the RNC to consider “several scenarios” as they continue to move forward with planning, since the abrupt threat from Trump comes just after North Carolina saw its highest one-day spike in cases over the weekend since the onset of the pandemic.
“It will be important to have several scenarios planned that can be deployed depending on the pubic health situation,” she wrote. “The RNC wants to hold a full in-person convention in Charlotte, but we need the governor to provide assurances that it can occur. We will need some answers sooner rather than later, or we will be forced to consider other options,” RNC spokesperson Mandi Merritt said when asked for a response to the letter.
Cooper referenced the letter during the briefing, saying he aims to reach a resolution with the RNC about how to move forward with the event.”We’re going to have to take steps to protect people. We have asked the RNC to present to us in writing their proposals. We’ve had discussions with them about a very limited convention all the way up, and we want to see in writing what their plans are,” he said.
“We asked NASCAR to do the very same thing, and NASCAR did a good job this weekend of executing their plan,” he added. “We want to see from the RNC what their plans are, and we have asked them to submit those plans to our public health officials. They have someone hired to to advise them as well. And we look forward to the back and forth on that. We’d like to reach a resolution that everybody can be reasonable about that puts public health, safety, the science and the facts as the number one thing we’re trying to do here. So we look forward to those continue conversations.”
A former Democratic convention chairman warned against moving forward with a full-scale convention in the middle of the deadly outbreak.
“The operative word is not whether they can, but whether they should,” said former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who chaired Democrats’ 2012 convention in Charlotte. “It would be insane to put 20,000 people in a stadium as if were we not in the worse pandemic in a century.”
REarlier on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany referred questions on decision-making surrounding the president’s threats to pull the GOP convention from North Carolina to the RNC and campaign but suggested that Cooper could use the coronavirus as an excuse to restrict the Republican convention.”The president wants to ensure that politics is not at play and determining how and when the convention can work. He wants to make sure a Democrat governor is not putting in place extraneous restrictions that would prohibit him from having the convention and holding it,” she said.It would be unprecedented for the party to move the event to a new location in just three months.Bill Harris, a longtime Republican operative and lobbyist who served as chief executive officer of the 1992, 2004 and 2012 GOP conventions, told ABC News that changing the location of the convention is “probably not the ideal thing, but you probably could do it.””The closer you get, it gets harder to do and more expensive, but you could do it,” he said.
Earlier on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany referred questions on decision-making surrounding the president’s threats to pull the GOP convention from North Carolina to the RNC and campaign but suggested that Cooper could use the coronavirus as an excuse to restrict the Republican convention.
“The president wants to ensure that politics is not at play and determining how and when the convention can work. He wants to make sure a Democrat governor is not putting in place extraneous restrictions that would prohibit him from having the convention and holding it,” she said.
It would be unprecedented for the party to move the event to a new location in just three months.Bill Harris, a longtime Republican operative and lobbyist who served as chief executive officer of the 1992, 2004 and 2012 GOP conventions, told ABC News that changing the location of the convention is “probably not the ideal thing, but you probably could do it.”
“The closer you get, it gets harder to do and more expensive, but you could do it,” he said.
Harris said that Republicans could change their plans up until mid-July, when party officials begin to relocate to Charlotte. After that point, construction will begin inside the arena hosting the convention proceedings, and the party will be spending more money.
“Normally it’s very difficult to find a venue, because everything big enough is usually booked up years in ahead,” he said. “Now with the virus I’m not sure what the status is.
“Just last month, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said that the party plans to make a determination “by the end of June, early July” on the format of the convention since the build out for the signature event doesn’t begin until July and “there’s no need to make a decision right now.
“Trump’s strike against a Democratic governor in a battleground state comes just five months before November’s election, when the president will once again seek to carry the state he won by just four percentage points four years ago, the same year Cooper unseated GOP incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory in a close race for the governorship. This year, Trump isn’t the only incumbent on the ballot, with GOP Sen. Thom Tillis facing a tough road to re-election up against Democrat Cal Cunningham, a former state senator and an Army veteran.