White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said he would prefer President Donald Trump give his Republican National Convention speech “miles and miles away” from the White House after the President floated the idea of delivering it on White House grounds.
“Those decisions are still in flux, but I can tell you what I’m advocating for is miles and miles away from here,” Meadows said, referring to the White House complex in a pre-taped interview that aired on Gray TV’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” Sunday morning.
His comments come after Trump said last week he is considering delivering his speech from the White House after scrapping plans to hold convention activities in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Well we are thinking about it. It would be easiest from the standpoint of security,” Trump said during an interview with “Fox and Friends” on Wednesday.
“We are thinking about doing it from the White House because there’s no movement. It’s easy, and I think it’s a beautiful setting and we are thinking about that. It’s certainly one of the alternatives. It’s the easiest alternative, I think it’s a beautiful alternative.”
Ethics experts, however, say the President entertaining the notion of accepting the nomination from White House property highlights his willingness to trample on norms.
A federal law, known as the Hatch Act, generally forbids the use of government property and employees for political activities with some exceptions. The President and vice president are exempt, but some previous officeholders have sought to limit political activity in the White House, for instance, by holding political events elsewhere or in the residential spaces of the presidential mansion.
By using the White House as a backdrop for a nationally televised convention speech, Trump would risk ordering government staffers to violate the Hatch Act, experts say.
“This is an overt campaign act,” Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, told CNN last week about Trump’s suggestion. “He’s been riding the line in making statements about Biden at White House events. This is beyond the line.”
Pressed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday about the ethics of the President delivering his convention speech at the White House, Meadows explained that “the East Wing is certainly an appropriate place to do it, if he chooses to do that.”
“But listen, those decisions have not been made yet,” he continued. “I can tell you that as we look at it, I don’t expect there to be an address from the oval office.”