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Trump Says Hatch Act Doesn't Apply to His Plans to Accept Nomination at White House

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Trump Says Hatch Act Doesn't Apply to His Plans to Accept Nomination at White House

2020-08-06 18:12:28

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the 2020 presidential election a few curveballs. Forgetting the difficulties of getting people out to vote while worried about being out in public, there are also questions of holding nominating conventions. While Trump is suggesting he may just deliver his acceptance speech at the White House. Former Vice President Joe Biden has pulled out of his plans and announced he would not be traveling to Milwaukee to accept the nomination.

Trump had dreamed of having a large ceremony with thousands lavishing praise on him when he accepted the Republican nomination. He moved that part of the convention from North Carolina to Jacksonville to avoid having it possibly shut down because of the virus, only to end up canceling Jacksonville anyway.

On Wednesday he found himself once again defending his plans after he received pushback that accepting the nomination from the White House could be a violation of the Hatch Act.

"It is legal. There is no Hatch Act because it doesn't pertain to the president," Trump told reporters at a news conference. This follows similar things he has said throughout his presidency, believing he is omnipotent.

He furthered his explanation, saying the White House would be an ideal location to accept the nomination because it would save money on traveling and security. He doesn't seem to consider the cost, though, when he travels to golf at one of his resorts.

"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," explained the president. "I think it would be a very convenient location and by far the least expensive location."

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) brought up the potential Hatch Act violation. This law prohibits federal officials, including White House staff, from participating in partisan political activities. The president and vice president do have exemptions. However, legal experts have said that any White House Staff who attended the nomination ceremony would be violating the Hatch Act.

Thune had concerns as well. "I assume that's not something that you could do. I assume there's some Hatch Act issues or something," he expressed. "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."

Before Trump spoke to the press on Wednesday afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows noted the difference between the West Wing and the East Wing of the White House. He believes it would be okay for Trump to hold an event "more political in nature" from the East Wing because it's the "private residence," adding that Trump would not be delivering his speech from the Oval Office.

On the same day, Democratic National Convention organizers confirmed Biden will not travel to Milwaukee as planned to accept the Democratic nomination because of concerns of the virus. Instead, he'll be accepting the nomination in his home state of Delaware. The other speakers also will not be traveling to Milwaukee.

The convention organizers said they were taking the step to not have Biden and the other speakers physically at the convention "in order to prevent risking the health of our host community as well as the convention's production teams, security officials, community partners, media, and others necessary to orchestrate the event."

"2020 will always be remembered as a year of once-in-a-lifetime challenges and changes — but it will also be remembered as a time when Americans were their most compassionate and resilient selves," said Joe Solmonese, chief executive of the Democratic convention, in a statement.

"While we wish we could move forward with welcoming the world to beautiful Milwaukee in two weeks, we recognize protecting the health of our host community and everything involved with this convention must be paramount."

The convention had already been scaled back, with most speakers set to record their speeches to create a TV event that would air for two hours each of four nights from August 17 through 20.

Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are two of the others who are scheduled to deliver speeches. It's expected that there will also be a tribute to the late John Lewis (D-GA).

Biden acknowledged he would not be accepting the nomination in person in Milwaukee while speaking at a campaign fundraiser in Connecticut. He vowed it's still "going to be an exciting convention."

"The [Milwaukee] mayor has put in place a 225-person limit on people assembling in any one place," noted Biden. "I think it's the right thing to do. I've wanted to set an example as to how we should respond individually to this crisis."

The former vice president added, "From the start of the process, we've made it clear ... science matters."

Convention organizers said details about the location of Biden's acceptance would be released later. However, former House Speaker Newt Grinch (R-GA) tweeted, "Biden's decision to accept the nomination hiding in his basement is a reminder Democrats have moved from John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage to Biden's profile in timidity."

There was more to say about Trump's plans, however. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, "You don't have political events in the Capitol. You don't have political events in the White House."

She added, "It won't happen, let's put it that way. ... Andrea, my friend, once again, he is diverting attention from the fact that people are dying in this country."

The congressional GOP had a variety of responses. "Well, he lives there," said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD). "What are his options?"

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), however, said, "Probably not allowed. ... Probably shouldn't do it."

Frequent Trump foe Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said, "I don't know whether that's technically legal or not, but it's got to be somewhere!" 

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) had doubts as well, suggesting, "that would be problematic," adding, "I would have to have somebody show me where it says he can do that."

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