President Donald Trump said he is moving the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, hours after N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper said he couldn’t guarantee that the August event would be at full capacity due to the coronavirus.
In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump said: “Had long planned to have the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, a place I love. Now, @NC_Governor Roy Cooper and his representatives refuse to guarantee that we can have use of the Spectrum Arena – Spend millions of dollars, have everybody arrive, and then tell them they will not be able to gain entry.
“Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised. Would have showcased beautiful North Carolina to the World, and brought in hundreds of ..millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State.
“Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”
…millions of dollars, and jobs, for the State. Because of @NC_Governor, we are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2020
Trump has been known to change course at times and to use maximum pressure to get his way, so threatening to “seek another state” could be a negotiating tactic.
Trump first threatened to pull the convention in a series of tweets on Memorial Day.
Cooper responded on Twitter with a similar message that he had delivered throughout the day.
“We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe. Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority,” Cooper tweeted tonight.
We have been committed to a safe RNC convention in North Carolina and it’s unfortunate they never agreed to scale down and make changes to keep people safe. Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority.
— Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) June 3, 2020
Cooper said Tuesday that he could not guarantee the “full convention” envisioned by Trump and convention organizers that included 19,000 people in attendance at the Spectrum Center and nearby bars and restaurants operating at capacity.
Cooper said it was “very unlikely” that Republicans could have the convention they had envisioned and offered to work on a scaled-down version.
North Carolina is currently in Phase 2 of its coronavirus reopening.
Indoor gatherings are currently limited to 10 people.
The convention is scheduled for Aug. 24 through Aug. 27.
Trump would be re-nominated by the Republican delegates on Aug. 27.
Cooper, a Democrat, said today that state officials and convention organizers had discussed a limited attendance version, but those “discussions have stopped.”
“They have demanded a full 19,000-person crowd at the inside arena in Charlotte. We’ve continued to say we want to talk with you about a scaled-down convention. But we cannot guarantee you that at the end of August, you can have a full arena,” Cooper said today at a press briefing in Raleigh.
State officials and Republicans had gone back and forth over the past eight days in a series of letters.
Republicans spoke Friday about safety steps they would take at the convention, including temperature checks and daily online questionnaires for attendees.
But they never mentioned face coverings or social distancing (and thus lower attendance).
Cooper and Trump spoke Friday about the convention, and Trump asked for no social distancing or masks for attendees.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced earlier Tuesday that the committee would begin visiting “multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business.”
Earlier in the day, a committeeman from the Republican National Committee said he believed the convention would leave Charlotte.
“I think it’s done. You can’t negotiate with a guy like (Cooper). He’s a hard leftist Democrat that doesn’t want Trump to look good in his state,” Shawn Steel told McClatchy.
Among cities that have been reported to have interest are Jacksonville, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Las Vegas and Orlando.
State officials from Florida, Texas and Georgia have made public overtures as well.
U.S. Reps. Ted Budd and Dan Bishop of North Carolina and Ralph Norman of South Carolina held a press conference earlier Tuesday, urging the state to accommodate the convention, citing its economic impact.
About 1 million North Carolinians have filed for unemployment since March when the coronavirus pandemic shut down many businesses across the state.
The event was expected to bring 50,000 people to Charlotte before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Tragedy for my hometown. For thousands of interested young NC’ians. For hoteliers, restaurants, bars, all their employees and financiers. Gig workers. Both sides of the border,” Bishop tweeted Tuesday night.
If the city had canceled the convention, it was potentially staring at tens of millions of dollars in damages, the Charlotte Observer previously reported.
Under a contract it signed two years ago, RNC organizers could ask the courts to force Charlotte to host the event or pay millions of dollars in damages if city leaders don’t allow the event to happen, the Observer reported last month.
It’s not clear if the RNC would face penalties for pulling out.
City attorney Patrick Baker said the RNC contract was intentionally structured so that it would be hard for either side to cancel.
“The contract is designed so the two sides are substantially bound together,” he told the Observer. “The terms are mutual.”
Charlotte did not include an “act of God” clause in its RNC deal, which would have allowed it to call off the event due to unforeseen disasters.
While some big events have those clauses, lawyers said it is not common for political conventions to include them.
Charlotte was awarded the convention in July 2018 and two years of work have been put in by many, including some staffers who moved to Charlotte.
Beth Campbell, an RNC member from Tennessee, said if picked, her home state could ultimately pull off the massive logistical challenge of hosting such an event on short notice.
“It’ll be all hands on deck from now until the convention,” Campbell said. “And it’ll take a lot of work, but it can be done.”
She added that she was sorry to see the convention moved because she and other RNC members loved the city when they visited last year.
“I do want Charlotte to know how much we appreciate the hospitality they showed us last summer, and that we were looking forward to coming to Charlotte,” she said.
The city hosted the 2012 Democratic National Convention at which President Barack Obama was re-nominated.
Charlotte, like many cities across the nation, is currently having protests after the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minnesota.