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N.C. governor rejects Trump demands as standoff over full-scale GOP convention escalates

The RNC responded by saying it would begin visiting other cities that have volunteered to host a Republican convention at full-scale.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper listens to a question during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C., on May 28, 2020.Ethan Hyman / The News and Observer via AP file

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he would not provide President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee with a "guarantee" that the party could hold a full-scale convention in Charlotte this summer, citing public health concerns amid the pandemic.

The statement from Cooper, a Democrat, could prompt Trump and the RNC, who have both threatened to move the convention to another city if their demands for such a guarantee weren't met, to go through with the change.

“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 in a letter to RNC officials.

“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. 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.”

Moments after Cooper’s letter, the RNC responded by saying it would consider moving the convention to another city.

“We hope to still conduct the business of our convention in Charlotte, but we have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.

The exchange marked the latest escalation in the conversation about possibly moving the GOP’s national convention. Trump kicked off the battle last week when he threatened to move the event from Charlotte if there was a chance that the venue could not be filled due to virus-related restrictions, tweeting that Cooper must “guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance” in the arena.

The RNC immediately echoed the president’s tweets, and days later, on May 30, wrote Cooper a letter demanding they be allowed a full convention, with 19,000 delegates, alternate delegates, staff, volunteers, elected officials and guests.

After Trump threatened to move the RNC, several other states, including Georgia and Florida, offered themselves as alternatives. Politico reported Tuesday that RNC officials would tour Nashville and consider it as a potential convention site, along with Las Vegas and Orlando.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, said it was possible that RNC officials were coming to Nashville as early as this week.

“I can’t tell you their particular plans," he said at a press conference. "I think they’re coming Thursday to tour the city.”

The convention is currently scheduled for Aug. 24-27, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a state which recently reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day.

The Democratic National Committee already pushed back its Milwaukee, Wisconsin, convention from mid-July to mid-August due to coronavirus concerns. The committee has left open the possibility that parts of the event will be held virtually, though officials say they expect a portion of the event to be held in-person.