Politics

Republican National Convention's primetime lineup will showcase Trump every night, federal properties

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Key Points
  • Republican National Convention events in Washington are shaping up to be a four-day celebration of President Donald Trump. 
  • Three federal properties in and around the nation's capital will be used for the partisan political event, raising concerns both ethical and legal. 
  • Speakers will include GOP Sens. Tim Scott and Joni Ernst, as well as former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland.
Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With less than 10 days to go before the start of the scaled-back Republican National Convention, plans are taking shape for what will be a four-day celebration of President Donald Trump, culminating in his acceptance speech Aug. 27 from the White House grounds. 

Vice President Mike Pence will deliver his speech on Wednesday night, Aug. 26, from the historic Fort McHenry national monument near Baltimore, according to several news reports Friday that cited unnamed convention planning officials.

Several other convention speeches will take place at another federal property, the ornate Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, which is located around the corner from the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. 

First Lady Melania Trump and several of Trump's adult children will speak on Tuesday, Aug. 25. Other speakers during the convention will include Republican Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa, former Trump ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

Trump will be the central focus of the convention on each of the four days, organizers said, a plan that breaks with the long-standing tradition of waiting until the last day of the convention to showcase the presidential nominee.

Several other convention speeches will take place at another federal property, the ornate Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, which is located around the corner from the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington. 

The plan to use federal properties such as the White House and Fort McHenry as backdrops for such overtly political events has caused a furor among government ethics experts, who say it violates long-standing norms against presidents using the White House or other federal property for campaign events.

The events also run the risk of violating the Hatch Act, a law which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while on the job. Trump and Pence are exempt from the Hatch Act, but the West Wing staffers who would presumably help to set up and staff Trump's speech are not. 

In addition to the marquee speakers, the GOP convention will include appearances from ordinary Americans who will describe how Trump's policies have improved their lives or warn of what could happen if Democrat Joe Biden defeats Trump in November. 

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley visits "Fox & Friends" at Fox News Channel Studios on November 12, 2019 in New York City.
John Lamparski | Getty Images

The overall theme of the week will be "Honoring the Great American Story." Monday's tag line will be "Land of Promise," Tuesday will be "Land of Opportunity," Wednesday will showcase "Land of Heroes," and the final day, Aug. 27, will be built around a "Land of Greatness" theme.

Organizers told Politico that while federal buildings are exempt from the District of Columbia's event occupancy limit, which is currently set at 50 people, they do not expect to have large crowds at any of the individual speeches, citing coronavirus pandemic concerns. 

And while the speeches and pageantry will largely take place in Washington, approximately 300 Republican delegates will gather in person in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Monday to formally nominate the president. Trump has previously said he plans to travel to Charlotte on Monday for a brief visit with delegates, but it was unclear Friday whether that trip would still occur.

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee did not respond to questions from CNBC about the convention speakers or the schedule.

The convention was originally scheduled to take place entirely in Charlotte, North Carolina, but in early June, Trump abruptly yanked the convention speeches from the host city after the governor refused to guarantee that the attendees would be allowed to ignore face mask and social distancing requirements.

Republican convention speeches were then moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where the Trump-allied GOP governor, Ron DeSantis, assured the president that the event could have a pre-coronavirus look and feel. 

Within days of Trump's announcement that Jacksonville would be the site of a GOP convention "celebration," coronavirus cases in Florida began to soar, and by late July it was clear that Jacksonville could no longer be the site of a major gathering either.

"The timing for this event is not right," Trump said on July 23, canceling the Florida arm of the convention. In its place, Trump said, "We'll have a very nice something."