The Slatest

Trump Threatens to Move GOP Convention Out of North Carolina Over Coronavirus Restrictions

Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Donald Trump speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland. Jim Watson/Getty Images

President Donald Trump began Memorial Day with a threat, warning that he was seriously considering moving the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, if there are no guarantees that the state will have lifted any restrictions on how many people can gather in closed spaces by late August. In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump said he needed guarantees from the Democratic governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper, that Republicans would be able to fill Charlotte’s Spectrum Center to capacity during the convention.

Trump wrote that he was the one who had “insisted” on holding the convention in Charlotte at the end of August. But the state’s Democratic governor “is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena.” That means the Republican Party might have to spend lots of money “without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space.”

Cooper, Trump insisted, must “immediately” give Republicans an answer “as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied,” Trump wrote. If he can’t guarantee that then the GOP will have to “reluctantly” pick another site for the convention, “with all of the jobs and economic development it brings.”

Trump’s threats came after North Carolina’s Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said the Republican National Committee should “hope for the best, but plan for the worst” when it came to the convention. The state has just entered “Phase 2” of its reopening, meaning some businesses, including restaurants, are allowed to open but at lower capacity while gyms and bars remain closed. A day after the new phase began, the state reported 1,107 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, marking the largest single-day increase for North Carolina since the pandemic began.

The president’s tweets also come a few days after the New York Times reported that Trump was open to participating in a smaller convention, although he reportedly often wondered to aides why they couldn’t simply move it to Florida, where the reopening process is moving along more quickly. Trump has also openly wondered whether North Carolina’s Democratic governor would try to hurt Republicans with rules regarding the convention. “It’s got a Democrat governor, so we have to be a little bit careful with that, because they’re playing politics,” Trump told a Washington Examiner columnist earlier this month. “They’re playing politics, as you know, by delaying the openings.” Cooper has insisted that his decisions regarding COVID-19 restrictions have nothing to do with politics. “A pandemic cannot be political,” Cooper told CNN. “If it is, we lose that ability to work together.”