“Well we are thinking about it. It would be easiest from the standpoint of security,” he said during an interview with “Fox and Friends.” “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 say Trump 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 exempted, 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.
“This is an overt campaign act,” Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, said of Trump’s move. “He’s been riding the line in making statements about Biden at White House events. This is beyond the line.”
The speech itself may not violate the Hatch Act, but “it creates the types of optics that you see in authoritarian countries, where the government resources exist to serve high officials,” said Walter Shaub, a frequent Trump critic and former head of the federal government’s ethics office. “And it’s just plain disrespectful to use the White House for a political event.”
And by using the White House as a backdrop for a nationally televised convention speech, Trump also risks ordering government staffers to violate the Hatch Act, experts say.
“We’ve never seen anything like this, but we’ve never seen anything like the Trump presidency,” said Norm Eisen, a former top White House ethics lawyer who served as a special oversight counsel for the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment inquiry into Trump.
“This is actually part and parcel of a larger pattern of Trump pushing legal limits, including the legal limits of those around him, to the breaking point and beyond the breaking point,” said Eisen, the author of a new book, “A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump.”
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.
Eisen, who served as White House ethics czar under President Barack Obama, said that administration’s rules guarding against political activity were so strict that Obama returned to the residential quarters in the White House to make fundraising calls. Eisen said he once made top Obama aide Peter Rouse remove a piece of campaign memorabilia from his White House office to avoid even the appearance of politicking on government property.
What Trump is floating, Eisen said, “is a naked exploitation of government property, government time and government personnel.”
Officials with the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee did…