Washington — President Trump threatened Monday to relocate the Republican National Convention from North Carolina unless Democratic Governor Roy Cooper lifts restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic to allow “full attendance” at the event.
In a series of tweets, Mr. Trump said Cooper is “still in shutdown mood” and can’t guarantee that by the end of August, when the convention is set to take place, the thousands of Republicans set to attend the event in Charlotte will be able to.
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
“In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space,” Mr. Trump said, adding the Cooper must “immediately” address whether full occupancy will be allowed.
“If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site,” he added. “This is not something I want to do.”
Vice President Pence reinforced the president’s threat, telling “Fox and Friends” Monday morning that “having a sense now is absolutely essential because of the immense preparations that are involved.”
He added that “we look forward to working with Governor Cooper — getting a swift response and if needs be — if needs be — moving the national convention to a state that — that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that, that we can gather there.”
On Monday afternoon, Cooper’s office tweeted from his account that the state’s health officials “are working with the RNC and will review its plans as they make decisions about how to hold the convention in Charlotte. North Carolina is relying on data and science to protect our state’s public health and safety.”
Mecklenburg County, the city of Charlotte and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management said in a joint statement they are in “constant communication” with local and federal counterparts to prepare for the Republican National Convention and are coordinating with stakeholders to develop guidelines for large events set to take place in Charlotte in the coming months. They plan to provide that guidance in June.
“The City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County and other local stakeholders will continue to plan for the RNC while respecting national and state guidance regarding the pandemic,” they said.
Mr. Trump reiterated later Monday that he would like the convention to stay in North Carolina. But at least one other state has already said it is prepared to embrace the event.
Joe Gruters, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement it “would welcome the opportunity to host the Republican National Convention.”
“Florida is committed to ensuring a safe, secure and successful event for” the president and attendees, he added.
The Republican National Convention in 2012 was held in Tampa, Florida.
The Republican National Committee said this month it expects nearly 50,000 will descend on Charlotte for the convention, where Mr. Trump will be re-nominated as the GOP’s presidential nominee. But North Carolina is in the second phase of its reopening plan, under which mass gatherings of more than 10 people indoors and more than 25 people outdoors are prohibited. The state has had more than 23,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including more than 3,200 in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located.
The coronavirus crisis led Democrats to postpone its convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from mid-July to August. The Democratic National Convention Committee said it is exploring options to alter the convention’s format, size and schedule.