Trump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White House

President Trump on Wednesday dismissed legal questions surrounding potential plans to deliver his GOP nomination acceptance speech from the White House, emphasizing that the federal Hatch Act does not apply to the president.

“It is legal. There is no Hatch Act because it doesn’t pertain to the president,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference.

The president went on to assert, as he did earlier Wednesday, that the White House would be an ideal location for the political speech because it would save money on travel and security expenses.

“If I use the White House, we save tremendous amounts of money for the government in terms of security, traveling. If we go to another state or some other location, the amount of money is very enormous,” he said. “I think it would be a very convenient location and by far the least expensive location.”

Trump was asked specifically to respond to concerns raised by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) about potential Hatch Act violations associated with staging the political event on the grounds of the White House.

The Hatch Act prohibits federal officials, including White House staffers, from engaging in partisan political activities, though it includes exemptions for the president and vice president. Legal experts argue that White House staffers who plan or attend the event would be violating the Hatch Act, however.

“I assume that’s not something that you could do. I assume there’s some Hatch Act issues or something,” Thune told reporters at the Capitol earlier Wednesday. “I don’t know the answer to that and I haven’t heard him say that but I think anything to do with federal property would seem to me to be problematic.”

The president confirmed in a phone interview on “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning that he was considering delivering his acceptance speech from the White House later this month, after The Washington Post reported that convention planners were considering the South Lawn as a potential venue.

Trump was originally expected to deliver the speech in Jacksonville, Fla., but he abruptly canceled the convention events there last month due to rising coronavirus infections in the state.

In a CNN interview Wednesday afternoon before Trump’s news conference, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows distinguished between the West Wing of the White House and the East Wing, arguing it would be appropriate for Trump to stage an event “more political in nature” from the East Wing because it is the “private residence.”

Meadows indicated Trump would not deliver the address from the Oval Office.

Trump has on previous occasions used the White House as a backdrop for overtly political speeches, especially as the coronavirus pandemic has compromised his ability to campaign and stage his signature rallies.

Accepting the GOP nomination from the White House would represent the most striking example yet of this activity, which has broken with decades of precedent. 

Tags Donald Trump John Thune Mark Meadows

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