WASHINGTON — Trump campaign aides are weighing another event on White House grounds around Election Day, despite criticism over the venue’s use as a political prop during the Republican convention.
There have been serious discussions about the logistics of pulling off an political event there in the closing days or hours of the race, following President Donald Trump’s satisfaction with his convention address on the White House South Lawn, according to two people familiar with the planning.
During the Republican convention, the president was criticized for using the White House as the backdrop for a purely political event, with several former government ethics officials saying it represented a misuse of public resources for personal gain. Throughout the election cycle, Trump has repeatedly blurred the lines between where the office of the president ends and the campaign begins, using official remarks and trips to attack his fall rival, Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Convention events held at the White House involved the construction of a large stage and the placement of 1,500 chairs on the grounds, resulting in extensive sod damage. The Trump campaign has said it is paying for repairs.
No final decision has been made and plans could still change, the people said. The Trump campaign declined to comment.
Several scenarios are being discussed, according to the sources. One possibility under consideration would be for Trump to hold an election night victory party there with supporters, similar to the sort of event that a candidate might hold in a hotel ballroom, said one person. Another option being considered is a rally-style event at the White House on the eve of the election, said a second person.
Organizers see two big potential obstacles to holding another event at the White House weather and protests.
An outdoor crowd of hundreds of people in early November may not encounter ideal seasonal conditions, though the White House does occasionally host cold-weather outdoor events in the vicinity, such as the annual Christmas tree lighting.
Even if the weather cooperated, the president’s opponents might not: Following Trump’s convention speech, protestors loudly confronted attendees such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as they exited the White House gates.
The number of demonstrators in Washington is expected to be even greater around the election, creating a concern for organizers about how to pull off a seamless entrance and exit for attendees, said one of the people involved in the planning.
Other suggested Trump election night locations being considered include the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, site of most of the convention speeches, and Trump’s own Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the person said.
President Barack Obama delivered his re-election night victory speech in 2012 from his hometown of Chicago, and President George W. Bush spoke from the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington in 2004. In 2016, Trump watched the results from his Manhattan apartment and gave a speech to a relatively small gathering at a Hilton hotel down the street.
With a larger number of votes expected to be cast by mail and the attendant possibility the presidential contest winner may not be known for days afterward, election night this year may have a different feel than in the past when candidates were generally able to celebrate their victory that evening or in the early morning hours that followed.