After several rounds of tense correspondence between the organizers of the Republican National Convention and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, President Donald Trump announced late Tuesday that the GOP has now been “forced” to look for another state to host the event.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
“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.”
Trump’s announcement comes just hours after the release of the latest terse communication between Cooper and RNC officials, in which the North Carolina governor, a Democrat, said it’s “very unlikely” that the Republican National Convention will be held at full-scale participation.
“As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the Convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Cooper said in a letter. “Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.”
After Trump’s announcement, Cooper said, “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 has long resisted Trump’s demands to loosen social distancing guidelines to benefit the convention, scheduled for the week of Aug. 24. Trump has crafted several tweets in which he railed against Cooper for not relenting on these guidelines, threatening for weeks to move the convention to another state.
The City of Charlotte, meanwhile, tweeted that it has a contract with the GOP and that the city’s attorney “will be in contact with the attorneys for the RNC to understand their full intentions.”
While Trump did not specify in his tweet to where the convention will be moved, multiple governors and GOP officials from places such as Texas and Georgia immediately offered up their states as potential hosts when the saga over the location of the convention first broke out.
The enforcement of social distancing guidelines at the convention would force a cap on the number of participants, ensuring that the event will not be nearly as attended as in previous years.
National political conventions have traditionally drawn thousands of protesters even in years without the added crises of a pandemic, 40 million Americans out of work and now, widespread civil unrest.
The demands that would likely be placed on any city’s infrastructure and public safety apparatus, in order for that city to provide convention security and pandemic-level sanitation are difficult to quantify, but surely enormous.
The White House declined to comment.
When reached for comment, an RNC official gave the following statement to CNBC:
“Due to the directive from the governor that our convention cannot go on as planned as required by our rules, the celebration of the president’s acceptance of the Republican nomination will be held in another city. Should the governor allow more than 10 people in a room, we still hope to conduct the official business of the convention in Charlotte.”
Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking about the move.
In previous correspondences, Cooper and other state officials have asked RNC officials to present a detailed convention operation plan that uses social distancing to receive permission to carry out the event as they wish.
But the RNC has skirted the issue of releasing a social distancing plan in its discussions with North Carolina.
In a letter released Thursday, the RNC outlined a number of safety protocols such as temperature scans ahead of entry and the availability of disinfectant in the convention site. But absent from their plan is a way to encourage social distancing and cap the number of people who are able to attend the convention.
The coronavirus outbreak has spread to dozens of countries, with more than 6.2 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 375,987 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 1.8 million cases in the United States and at least 105,147 deaths, Hopkins data showed.
— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.