CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp asked President Donald Trump in a tweet to think about moving the Republican National Convention to the Peach State following Trump’s threat Monday to pull the convention from Charlotte because of North Carolina’s restrictions.
Trump contended that Cooper is “unable to guarantee” that the arena can be filled to capacity.
“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,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena. 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.”
He continued, “Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August. 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. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!”
The tweets completely blindsided party officials and those involved in planning the convention, who have repeatedly argued that health and safety will come first. The officials have insisted planning for the convention is on track.
However, Vice President Mike Pence echoed Trump on Monday, telling Fox News the convention could be moved “if need be” and listing some states that could be alternative locations.
“It’s an issue we’ve been talking about because these national conventions literally take many months to organize and prepare and there are states around the country — we think of Texas, we think of Florida, Georgia, the last two states I visited last week that have made tremendous progress on reopening their communities and reopening their economies,” Pence said.
Pence said Trump’s request of Cooper was “very reasonable.”
“We all want to be in Charlotte, we love North Carolina, but having a sense now is absolutely essential because of the rules and regulations that are involved, and we look forward to working with Gov. Cooper, getting a swift response, and, if need be, moving the national convention to a state that is farther along on reopening and can say with confidence that we can gather there,” he said.
The Republican National Committee and convention did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment and questions as to whether the prospect of another location have been discussed. A Trump campaign official referred CNN to the President’s tweets and vice president’s comments on the topic, declining to respond to CNN’s inquiry on whether the campaign got a heads-up that Trump’s tweets were coming.
While the President called for “a guarantee” from North Carolina, that suggestion overlooks the uncertainty surrounding summertime levels of the coronavirus.
Cooper, who is up for reelection in November, announced last week the state would advance to the next phase of its reopening plan, with restaurants, barber shops and salons among places that could open with limitations on Friday evening, while gyms, bars and movie theaters will remain closed.
Both Cooper and the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, Vi Lyles, said their recommendations and decisions about the convention will be guided by science, not politics. Business owners see the convention as a potential lifeline after more than two months of economic disaster.
“This is not political. This is not emotional. This is based on health experts, data and science and that’s it for everybody to see,” Cooper told CNN. “No one is being favored or disfavored over the other.”
On Monday, Cooper’s press secretary Dory MacMillan, said “State 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.”
The Republican convention, which is scheduled to be held in the same uptown arena where President Barack Obama accepted his nomination to a second term in 2012, is awash in uncertainty as party officials determine how to navigate a presidential campaign during a public health crisis.
Cooper said the Republican gathering would be treated like any other major event and it remained unclear whether concerts or the NFL would return this summer and fall. Crowds are still limited to 10 people, under the governor’s order, with additional phases of reopening still to come.
Last month, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told reporters the Republican National Committee, Trump campaign, and host committee are moving “full steam ahead” in convention planning, but will assess in late June or early July as to whether contingencies need to be made due to the coronavirus.
“We do not think at this time we have to switch to an alternative plan, but of course, we will monitor circumstances and adjust accordingly,” she said on a briefing call. McDaniel also said, “We will not be holding a virtual convention.”
It remains unclear what an adjusted GOP convention could look like and how social distancing guidelines will be observed in the coming months. A “traditional convention” typically consists of thousands of supporters packed into an arena, including key party officials, during the formal nomination process.
Trump’s tweets come amid criticism for his weekend spent golfing at his club in Virginia and hours before he is set to commemorate the Memorial Day holiday by participating in a wreath laying at Arlington National Cemetery and a ceremony at Fort McHenry in Baltimore.