RNC gives Gov. Cooper 24-hour deadline to allow full convention in Charlotte

RNC to conduct official convention business in Charlotte, not Trumps speech

CHARLOTTE — The leader of the Republican National Committee said Friday that she is giving North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper 24 hours to allow the convention in August to run at full capacity.

“I’ve got 24 hours before I have to make some really difficult decisions. But I want to leave that door open,” said Ronna McDaniel, leader of the RNC.

The RNC already said that President Donald Trump probably won’t accept his party’s nomination in North Carolina, but that it would still hold meetings in Charlotte.

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McDaniel said the location of the big prime-time speeches would change, such as Trump’s and likely the vice president’s speech as well.

The city of Charlotte sent Channel 9 a statement Thursday confirming the city attorney met with RNC representatives, the host committee and all other parties Thursday. They talked about the RNC’s future in Charlotte.

“RNC representatives confirmed that at this point in time, they intend to locate the entirety of the business portion of the Convention in Charlotte. It was understood by the parties that some of the Convention events that were originally set to occur in Charlotte may be relocated to another community outside of North Carolina," according to the statement.

Read the full statement from the city of Charlotte:

“This morning, the City Attorney and members of his staff met with representatives of the Republican National Committee, the Local Host Committee, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and the Charlotte Hornets to discuss the current status of preparations for the 2020 Republican National Convention. During that meeting, RNC representatives confirmed that at this point in time, they intend to locate the entirety of the business portion of the Convention in Charlotte. What those intentions mean in terms of the number of visitors coming to Charlotte, the length of time and the amount of space needed to properly host the business portion of the convention is unclear with the RNC representatives agreeing to provide the parties with further information as their plans continue to develop. It was understood by the parties that some of the Convention events that were originally set to occur in Charlotte may be relocated to another community outside of North Carolina. The parties agreed to reconvene the conversation on Monday, June 8.”

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news conference Thursday that there’s been talk of having all events in Charlotte except for the president’s acceptance speech. That’s the night Trump said he wants a full arena -- without social distancing and masks.

The RNC plans to visit several cities to evaluate its options. The RNC’s top considerations to host Trump include Orlando, Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; New Orleans, Dallas, and Phoenix.

McDaniel is hoping to decide on a location in the next 10 days.

“I’m not going to say which ones in. Some of them for different reasons aren’t going to work but we have staff all over the country looking at different venues,” McDaniel said.

Cooper said he wants the RNC in Charlotte and the business it would bring, but would not commit to the president’s request.

“We aren’t going to guarantee something we know could hurt the health and safety of North Carolinians. We look forward to any discussions they want to have. The president announced they’re moving to somewhere else. The RNC wants to keep it in Charlotte. We’ll see how it works out,” Cooper said.

Sources also sent a letter to Channel 9 that was sent by the RNC host committee to Cooper asking for a meeting to answer any lingering questions. It is unclear if that will happen at this point.

The same group that met in Charlotte on Thursday is scheduled to meet again Monday.

Channel 9 has been covering this controversy for weeks since the president sent Cooper an ultimatum demanding to know if the RNC could be held at full capacity.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Trump said he had been planning to have the RNC in North Carolina -- a place he loves. According to Trump, Cooper said the Republicans could use the Spectrum Center for the RNC but now will not allow them to “occupy the area as originally anticipated and promised.”

City officials addressed the state of the RNC Wednesday afternoon at a virtual meeting held at city hall. All parties involved are moving forward with the RNC contract and are meeting Thursday, officials said.

Mayor Vi Lyles said the city of Charlotte has spent $14 million on the RNC to date. The city expects to be reimbursed by the DOJ’s grant if the event in uptown falls apart.

City officials said Wednesday they need clarity about the obligations of the contract, so the city could continue to move forward with preparing for the convention. It’s possible some parts of the RNC could still be in Charlotte even if the nomination celebration isn’t.

“The contract requires that the city and the county give the RNC access to the Spectrum Center and support personnel and it required RNC to have the convention, but the contract doesn’t specify what that means,” said attorney Chris Strianese, who is familiar with the convention about whether that would be a breach of agreement. “It’s not necessarily clear -- the convention here.”

He said, per the contract, Charlotte will still get paid from the RNC, even if the full convention doesn’t happen in the Queen City.

“From Charlotte’s perspective, they are entitled to $5.5 million of the contract, regardless of whether RNC and host committee chooses to have events here,” Strianese said.

Cooper: "Protecting public health and safety during this pandemic is a priority”

The president said Cooper is still in a “shelter-in-place mode."

Cooper himself later tweeted, saying, “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.”

The city of Charlotte later said in a statement it has not received a notification from the Republican National Committee about its intent for the location of the convention. The city said it has a contract in place with the RNC to host the convention, and the city attorney will be in contact with RNC attorneys.

On Wednesday morning, Channel 9 obtained the following statement from the Republican National Committee:

“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.”

In another statement sent to Channel 9, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party had this to say on the relocation of the RNC:

The Mecklenburg County Republican Party is responding to the news that the 2020 Republican National Convention will be relocated from Charlotte due to Governor Roy Cooper’s inability to provide clear guidance and deadlines for fulfilling the contractual obligations of a successful event.

"Over two years ago, the Mecklenburg County Republican Party, in conjunction with the North Carolina Republican Party and business leaders within the region, began the process of bidding for and looking forward to successfully hosting the 2020 Republican National Convention in the Queen City. In a city that claims to embrace diversity and inclusion, it was our hope that the Republican Party could also be included in that conversation and showing our actions through deeds. We enjoyed bipartisan work to ensure a safe and welcoming convention, something we encouraged in 2012 with the DNC. We planted seeds of working together, through service projects, community conversations and a spirit of cooperation. We looked forward to providing an economic boost upwards of $165 million for our region while welcoming attendees from across the country to see just how welcoming and progressive of thought diversity our community could be.

"Governor Cooper refuses to set a timetable for when we can proclaim that Charlotte, let alone North Carolina, is open for business. We continue to wonder when North Carolina will ever be declared open for business again. The economic policies created with Governor McCrory and the General Assembly are slowly deteriorating at a time that could not be worse for our struggling businesses and its employees. With nearly 1 in 7 Charlotteans working in the hospitality industry, they need reassurance that our state will ever be open for business. In a country that is slowly starting to reopen and resume some sense of normalcy this sets a dangerous precedent for the recruitment of future events and conventions to our beloved city and state. We refuse to accept the notion that North Carolina is closed for business. We continue to ask that everyone in our community let their voices be heard that we need to keep the convention in Charlotte.

“On behalf of the 10,000 volunteers that were excited to share Charlotte with the world and prove that we could offer diversity of thoughts, opinions and ideals while showcasing our hospitality, we are saddened. For those of our volunteers that gave so much of their time and treasure, we are truly crushed. Our small delegation will go to whatever city will now receive the economic benefit of this move, but so many that would otherwise not have access to the convention have now been shut out of the process. And for that we are truly saddened.”

North Carolina faces an upward trend in its virus cases, reporting about 29,900 cumulative cases and 900 deaths as of Tuesday. Around 700 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized. Mecklenburg County accounted for 4,500 cases — more than double the next-highest county — and nearly 100 deaths.

Trump is no longer planning to speak at the convention in Charlotte, but the Republican National Committee says it plans to hold some business activities in North Carolina if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials “allow more than 10 people in a room.”

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More RNC coverage:

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In the past, we have reported that Trump is not part of the RNC contract. Channel 9 asked political analyst Michael Bitzer how much influence he thinks the president will have in all of this.

“The head of the Republican Party is President Trump,” Bitzer said. “They will look to the president ultimately to see where he wants it to be held.”

Bitzer said it would be a huge task for any other city or state to organize a convention in under three months. North Carolina and the city of Charlotte have been planning for the RNC since it was selected as the host city in July 2018.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Cooper said it is “very unlikely” that a full-scale Republican National Convention could take place in Charlotte in August.

The governor said in a letter that the GOP must prepare for a scaled-back convention in Charlotte because of the coronavirus pandemic despite demands from Trump for a full-scale, in-person event.

Cooper said in the letter that he will not provide a guarantee that the RNC can host a full convention.

“Neither public officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek,” he wrote.

Cooper, a Democrat, said in the letter to the top convention organizer and the national GOP chairwoman that he is happy to continue conversations over how to hold the convention safely and is still awaiting a safety plan requested by North Carolina officials.

"The people of North Carolina do not know what the status of COVID-19 will be in August, so planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity," Cooper wrote.

The RNC was asking for approval of the following safety protocols by the governor:

  • Pre-travel health surveys through partnership with local health care providers
  • Daily health care questionnaires delivered via an app
  • Thermal scans of all mandatory attendees prior to boarding sanitized, pre-arranged transportation
  • Anti-bacterial gel will be widely available
  • Aggressive sanitizing protocol for all public areas
  • Planned transportation buses will be dropped off at the Charlotte Convention Center which will act as a mandatory hub for a final health care screening by health care officials
  • All attendees would have to pass a clean health check prior to entering the dedicated chute to the Spectrum Arena -- where all attendees would then be processed through normal United States Secret Service screening with normal event queue lines
  • Media suites and hospitality areas will be subject to food-service guidelines similar to any other restaurant

Despite the safety measures suggested, the committee did not mention wearing safety masks or that attendees engage in social distancing.

On Tuesday, GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel confirmed that the RNC will start visiting other cities willing to host the convention. The governor of Tennessee confirms Nashville is one of them. Politico reports that Las Vegas, Jacksonville and Orlando are also under consideration.

An RNC convention spokesperson in Charlotte told Channel 9 reporter Joe Bruno that “we intend to conduct the business of the Republican Party here in Charlotte and will continue to make health and safety a top priority."

Cooper also wrote that he is “happy” to continue discussions with the RNC about what a scaled-down convention would look like and said his office is still waiting for a Republican response as to what that would look like.

“With the Nation, the State of North Carolina and the City of Charlotte still under states of emergency, it’s important to conduct the RNC convention accordingly,” Cooper said. “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. Neither public health officials nor I will risk the health and safety of North Carolinians by providing the guarantee you seek.”

During his news briefing Tuesday afternoon, Cooper reiterated that he wants to continue to talk to the RNC about having a scaled-down convention but he will not guarantee they can have a full arena.

When asked by reporters about the GOP response, Cooper said it was unlikely that virus trends will allow a full-scale nominating convention for Trump to proceed in Charlotte.

The conference is scheduled to start Aug. 24 at the Spectrum Center, which seats more than 19,000 people.

The letter comes on the eve of a deadline from GOP officials that Cooper answer them by Wednesday on whether they can hold a full-scale convention in Charlotte in August.

Last Friday, Trump and Cooper spoke about the viability of a full-fledged Republican National Convention in Charlotte in August. Trump threatened to move his formal renomination elsewhere if he does not get guarantees soon of being able to hold a large-scale event.

Cooper’s spokesperson said that the governor expressed concerns over Trump’s insistence on a full convention arena with no face coverings and no social distancing.

The Republican National Committee declined to comment about the call.

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