WASHINGTON — President Trump tweeted on Monday that he is choosing between two locations, Gettysburg, Pa., and the White House, for his speech accepting the Republican nomination, scheduled for the night of Aug. 27.
“We have narrowed the Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech, to be delivered on the final night of the Convention (Thursday), to two locations - The Great Battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and the White House, Washington, D.C,” Trump wrote, adding, “We will announce the decision soon!”
Gettysburg was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, which resulted in over 50,000 Union and Confederate troop casualties in 1863. It was a crucial turning point in the war, as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s efforts to invade the North were halted. Months later, the battle inspired one of the most famous political speeches in American history, when President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address and praised those who died in support of efforts to keep the country united despite Southern attempts to secede.
Trump previously suggested in an interview on Aug. 5 that he might deliver the speech from the White House. Plans for the Republican National Convention have repeatedly been scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Trump’s idea of using the White House prompted criticism — including from some Republican senators — that it would be a violation of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that limits partisan activity by federal employees. The president has insisted it would be “legal” for him to deliver a convention speech from the White House complex. Since Trump took office, ethics officials have found multiple members of his administration to be in violation of the act, but there have been few legal consequences.
The Republican convention, which will be capped by Trump’s speech formally accepting the party’s presidential nomination, was originally scheduled for Charlotte, N.C. Trump moved it to Jacksonville, Fla., after North Carolina’s Democratic governor said the event would need to be scaled down due to the pandemic. Late last month, Trump announced that the plans for events in Florida would be scrapped due to surging coronavirus cases there.
This will be the first election since 1944 in which neither of the major party candidates speaks from the site of the party’s convention. Democrats announced in late June that their convention, planned for Milwaukee, would be largely virtual. On Aug. 5, the Democratic National Convention Committee announced that former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, would make his acceptance speech from his home state of Delaware.
Gettysburg is a highly symbolic choice, particularly amid the renewed debate over racial issues that has gripped the country in recent months. Black Lives Matter protesters who have called for police reform have also sought to topple Confederate monuments in multiple cities. Trump has actively opposed the removal of Confederate monuments and specifically sought to prevent the removal of statues of Lee, who led the Southern military forces during the Civil War.
At her briefing on Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked what message the president aimed to send with the potential Gettysburg site. She declined to answer apart from suggesting that Trump hopes to highlight efforts he’s made to unify the country amid “unprecedented challenges.”
“I won’t get ahead of the president as to what his convention speech will look like, but the president has done a lot to bring this country together,” McEnany said, adding, “He has a strong record of achievement that he’ll be touting on that day.”
Trump discussed the site of his speech during a news conference on Monday evening. The president said he has visited Gettysburg “numerous times.”
“It’s the history. It’s incredible actually. To me, it was a very important place —it is a very important place for our country,” Trump said.
Trump also addressed the possibility of the speech being delivered from the White House. He said the West Wing would be the “least expensive” option and pointed to a shooting that took place outside the building on Monday as evidence of the importance of having a large Secret Service presence.
“The White House would be very much easier for Secret Service,” said Trump. “You see what just went on here.”
However, despite his endorsements of both Gettysburg and the White House, Trump indicated other locations could be in the mix.
“We have other sites too,” Trump said. “But i think these would be two really beautiful sites.”
This article was updated at 7:04 p.m. with comments from President Trump’s news conference.
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