Office Of Special Counsel Says Trump Can Give RNC Speech At WH

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26 : President Donald J. Trump speaks in the Oval Office as Guatemala signs a safe third country agreement to restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America at the White House on ... WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 26 : President Donald J. Trump speaks in the Oval Office as Guatemala signs a safe third country agreement to restrict asylum applications to the U.S. from Central America at the White House on Friday, July 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images) MORE LESS
August 13, 2020 9:01 a.m.

The Office of Special Counsel confirmed in a letter Wednesday that the Hatch Act “does not prohibit” President Donald Trump from delivering his Republican National Convention speech from the White House.

Deputy chief of the US Hatch Act Unit Erica Hamrick, wrote in a letter Wednesday that the President and Vice President were not covered by any of the provisions of the Hatch Act, adding that the act “does not prohibit President Trump from delivering his RNC acceptance speech on White House grounds.”

Hamrick’s letter comes in response to a request from House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney for an advisory opinion after Trump earlier this month floated the idea of delivering his speech accepting the Republican nomination on White House grounds. 

Hamrick added that there were some caveats since White House employees were implicated in the Hatch Act, writing, “there may be Hatch Act implications for those employees, depending on their level of involvement with the event and their position in the White House.”

CNN was the first to report that Hamrick’s letter — which was made public in a news release from Rep. James Comer (R-KY) — offered direction about the legality of the White House as a potential location for Trump’s GOP acceptance speech.

Trump told “Fox & Friends” earlier this month that he would “probably” deliver his acceptance speech  on White House grounds, confirming reports that it was under consideration after previous plans fell through. 

“It would be by far the least expensive from the country’s standpoint because it really is, it’s a big deal when you get up and move all of this apparatus,” Trump said at the time.

The President later tweeted that he was deciding between the White House and the site of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania for his RNC speech.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have criticized the suggestion of using the White House as a backdrop to the speech. 

Days after Trump said the White House was a top pick for his speech, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said in an interview that aired on Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” that decisions were “still in flux” adding that he was still advocating that the President deliver his remarks “miles and miles away” from the White House.

During an MSNBC interview, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that “whether it’s legally wrong or ethically out of the question” the suggestion that political events such as an acceptance speech for the GOP presidential nomination on White House grounds should be rejected outright. “He can’t do that,” she added.

Hamrick conceded in the letter Wednesday that “it is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of permitted or prohibited activities” but said that White House employees assisting with the RNC event  would be in violation of the Hatch Act.

“They also would not be able to attend the event while on duty. But, if the employees take leave, and the event is held on the White House lawn or in the residence, the Hatch Act would not prohibit the employees from attending the event.”

Responding to the letter on Thursday, Maloney told TPM in a statement, that the Office of the Special Counsel confirmed “serious legal concerns” for White House employees.

“As this guidance from the Office of Special Counsel makes clear, President Trump’s idea to host this campaign event at the White House raises serious legal concerns for White House employees,” Maloney said. “While President Trump has ignored the law repeatedly throughout his time in office, surely he can find a way to accept the Republican nomination without putting federal employees in legal jeopardy.”

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: