President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he's considering delivering his Republican convention acceptance speech from the White House after his initial plans to hold the event in two battleground states were foiled by coronavirus concerns and health restrictions.
The move would mark an unprecedented use of public property for partisan political purposes.
“It’s easy and I think it’s a beautiful setting, and we are thinking about that. It’s certainly one of the alternatives,” Trump said during a wide-ranging telephone interview on Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends.”
The Republican National Convention is scheduled for Aug. 24-27, with Trump’s acceptance speech capping the final night.
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The speech and the rest of the convention were going to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, until Trump feuded with the state's Democratic governor over coronavirus health restrictions. Trump then moved the speech and other elements of the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, a move welcomed by the state's Republican governor, but he later canceled those plans because of a resurgence of the coronavirus there.
The Florida cancellation effectively limited his options with the clock ticking.
Trump said holding the speech at the White House would be the “easiest from the standpoint of security” and the least expensive option because he — and the many staffers, Secret Service agents and others who typically accompany him — wouldn’t have to travel.
Trump said a final decision on the speech location hadn't been made, but he seemed to be leaning toward a White House setting for what traditionally is the highlight of a national political convention.
“If for some reason somebody had difficulty with it, I would, I could go someplace else," he said. "The easiest, least expensive and I think very beautiful would be live from the White House.”
Trump said journalists will be allowed in to cover his Aug. 24 renomination in Charlotte. Reports last week said the proceeding would be closed to media coverage because of coronavirus restrictions.
Trump said Wednesday that the convention will be a mix of virtual events and live speeches, including his remarks and a speech by first lady Melania Trump. “I’ll probably do mine live from the White House," he said.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Republican officials were considering using the White House South Lawn to stage Trump's acceptance speech.
Presidents typically seek to hold their nominating conventions in a state seen as crucial to their chances of winning the election, but this year's coronavirus outbreak has forced candidates to drastically change the way they campaign. Democrats are holding their convention in Wisconsin, though the event will be almost entirely virtual.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden will not travel to Milwaukee to accept his party’s White House nomination because of concerns over the coronavirus. Delegates also are not traveling to the site, and all business, including the vote to nominate Biden, will be virtual or by mail ballot.
Presidents also historically have treated the White House as a politics-free zone, though Trump has shown disregard for many norms and customs of the presidency.
On Wednesday, Trump also called for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland, to be held sooner because early voting will have already begun in some states. He complained that the current scheduling is “ridiculous.”
The second debate is scheduled for Oct. 15 in Miami, while the third debate is set for Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which plans the debates, had no immediate comment on Trump's suggestion to move up the first debate.
Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.