Trump Wants To Hold RNC Acceptance Speech At White House, Potentially Violating Hatch Act
President Donald Trump told Fox News Wednesday that he will “probably” deliver his Republican National Convention acceptance speech “from the White House,” although the legality of that is unclear.
“I love the building. I’m there right now. I spend a lot of time here,” Trump said. “A lot of people didn’t spend as much time. I spend a lot of time here and I like it. And I think it’s a great place and greatly representative of our nation.”
Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) questioned whether that would be legally possible during an interview with CNN.
“I assume that’s not something that you could do. I assume there’s some Hatch Act issues or something there,” Thune said.
Trump affirmed that he would not be in violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees from engaging in political activities in government facilities.
“It is legal. There is no Hatch Act, because it doesn’t pertain to the President,” the president said later in the day.
Trump claims it would be legal to make his RNC acceptance speech at the White House: "There is no Hatch Act, because it doesn't pertain to the president."
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 5, 2020
Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told CNN that the Hatch Act may inhibit other federal employees from assisting Trump “in preparation for that event.”
“The Hatch Act prohibits executive branch employees from using their government authority to influence an election and by definition if they’re involved in helping the President with his RNC acceptance speech, that is influencing the election,” Clark said.
Clark told CNN she doubts the Hatch Act would inhibit Trump’s idea, since there have been past violations of the act that went unpunished.
“This administration acts as though they don’t care about the Hatch Act,” Clark said. “The context of multiple violations and a refusal to hold violators accountable is relevant as we anticipate what Trump is going to do with regards to his RNC speech.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) criticized the idea, saying “it’s very wrong.”
“It’s very wrong,” Pelosi told MSNBC. “For the President of the United States to degrade, once again, the White House as he has done over and over again, by saying he’s going to completely politicize it is something that should be rejected right out of hand.”