GOP Senator Had the Most Relatable Response When He Heard Trump May Accept Nomination at the White House
Political party conventions are planned years in advance, but in the face of the pandemic that's killed nearly 160 thousand Americans, both the Republican and Democratic parties' plans for stadiums full of enthusiastic delegates have evaporated.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he would be accepting the Democratic nomination not from the swing state of Wisconsin, as planned, but from his home state of Delaware.
President Donald Trump's and the GOP's changes to their own convention have been much more erratic.
The convention was originally slated for Charlotte, North Carolina, but the President diverted many of the events to Jacksonville, Florida after Charlotte officials resisted scaling back virus prevention measures. Before the end of July, Trump announced that in-person events in Jacksonville had been canceled as well.
Ever the showman, Trump is still banking on his nomination acceptance speech drawing a substantial—albeit mostly virtual—crowd. His new proposed location for the speech? The South Lawn of the White House.
Republican Senator from South Dakota, John Thune, had a pressing question when he heard the news.
Thune: “Is that even legal? I assume that's not something that you could do. I assume there's some Hatch Act issues or something there. I don't know the answer to that."
Thune added: "I think anything you do on federal property would seem to be problematic." https://t.co/jk916KC6qK
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 5, 2020
While certainly norm-shattering, there is legal ambiguity. The Hatch Act prevents government officials from using their official positions to endorse products or political campaigns, but the act exempts the President and the Vice President, as well as campaign meetings and events held in their residences.
Whether or not the South Lawn, which is often used for official government events, is considered a part of the presidential residence is ambiguous.
Senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, Kedric L. Payne, told the Washington Post that Trump giving a campaign speech from the White House would be "exposing gaps in the law that must be closed."
"Government employees cannot wear or display campaign material at the White House. 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?"
Many were wondering the same thing as Thune: Is this legal?
Is this even legal??
Trump may deliver convention acceptance speech from the South Lawn of the White House. - The Washington Post https://t.co/sULtlNPWE6
— Erie Siobhan (@ErieNotEerie) August 5, 2020
how is this legal?
Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports https://t.co/nI2WzNNP15
— cortchie (@cortchie) August 5, 2020
Trump is thinking of using the WH south lawn to accept the nomination, is this legal? Then may it rain on his parade, https://t.co/7aCqZsfyWN
— debbie earley (@doxiedebbie) August 5, 2020
But given the trends established by the Trump White House, others were surprised legality as an obstacle even entered the question.
A Republican Senator questioning whether trump is doing something illegal ??? Is water now flowing uphill ?
— jrenyc57 (@Glad2BNewYorker) August 5, 2020
I think by now everyone knows it doesn't matter if anything Trump does is legal or not.
— Susan (@cmacsmom) August 5, 2020
I dont believe donnie ever worries about legalities !!
— Kathie Ploskonka (@KathiePloskonka) August 5, 2020
Though Trump hasn't held an official campaign event on the White House lawn, he has delivered campaign speeches masquerading as press briefings, in which his remarks are indistinguishable from the typical talking points at his infamous rallies.
He already does it Mon-Thursday in a so called #Pressconference.
— InspectorGadgetQueen #flattenthecurvestayhome (@gnwayland) August 5, 2020
I still don't understand how the last WH pseudo-news conference (rally) didn't get more attention as a violation - and I still want to know who paid for the trucks and the crane...https://t.co/D5CEk7MM7j
— Rebecca Hughes (@bec215) August 5, 2020
He does it every day at 5:30 disguising it as a COVID briefing.
— KV 🆘️ (@KristyV13) August 5, 2020
Another proposed location, according to the Post, is Trump's hotel in D.C., where the event would almost certainly funnel even more money into the Trump Organization.